1. Some structure
Aim to have a plan for the day (or days, if you have multiple family get-togethers like many people do!) - so people know expectations and timeframes (including the appropriate time to go home!) Lock in the traditions and priorities, tell people what help you’ll need and when, and have some back-up activities in store for bored kids… or bored adults!
It's absolutely fine to have some boundaries. Be honest with yourself and your whānau – if you need a quiet house for your kids’ afternoon naps, so be it. Or if you need everyone gone by 8pm so you can have some time to unwind with your partner, totally fine. If your kids are keen to spend the morning just the few of you, opening presents and having breakfast together – tell Grandma that you’ll be over at lunchtime. Or if travelling for two hours on Christmas day is going to result in a grumpy toddler, think about saving your whānau visit for a few days after Christmas. We’re all for continuing family traditions, but not if they leave us and our tamariki feeling exhausted and stretched.
3. A generous serving of acceptance
There’s a heap of stuff we can’t change in life, especially when it comes to other people! Adopt a posture of ‘water off a duck’s back’ for the things that you know you might find irritating. Encourage your kids to laugh and make an in-joke (that you can giggle about later, not in front of the joke’s subject!) about things that bother them too. We can still love our family members and be polite and honouring, even if we feel a bit bothered by their comments or actions. If you need to step away for a moment, give yourself permission to do so. Take the recycling out to the bins that are conveniently located quite far from the house in a quiet corner of the garden and use the moment to draw in a deep breath, pause and reflect. Kids might also need help to prepare for this form of gracious acceptance.
4. Assuming the best
It can really help to remind ourselves that most people are just trying to do their best. Their intentions likely came from a place of care, even if their actions or words were a bit clumsy. Yep, sometimes you don’t agree with the opinions of family members, but maybe in them sharing their mind with you, they’re just trying to connect. Smile and nod. Have a neutral response up your sleeve – “That’s an interesting thought”.