Christmas is just around the corner and this means there will be yet another family gathering. But you are probably not looking forward to this because you still remember last Christmas’ gathering, where your troublesome uncle was on everybody’s case because he had one too many to drink and dished out dirt on everybody, nearly ruining the whole family lunch.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PLANNING THE GET TOGETHER
Not all family get togethers are a walk in the park. Jennifer Papers, a counselling social worker at The Family Life Centre, says you have to take everyone’s needs and expectations into consideration when planning for the get together.
The aunt who won’t pitch because of other family members
Jennifer advises that you speak with your aunt and explain that her attendance is significant, not only for you, but everyone else, especially the guest of honour (if you have one).
“Be sure to mention that the get together can’t be complete without her,” says Jennifer.
The family ‘know-it-all’
If something is not a success, the family know-it-all is usually the first one to point this out.
“Don’t let their comments annoy you. Instead, ask them for advice on dealing with the next situation. If you give them a chance to take charge, they may back off. They probably don’t want to turn the tables and risk being criticised,” says Jennifer.
Lowering your expectations
Remember that you’re going to be spending the day with your extended family, so it’s okay to hope for the best, but be realistic.
“Don’t let exaggerated expectations ambush you. Never assume people are going to be on their best behaviour and act differently just because it’s a family gathering, families are families. They are going to act how they always act, maybe even worse,” says Jennifer.
Be a team player
If the get together is coming to your house this year, make sure you include relatives in the various activites planned for the day.
“Invite them to bring something for the meal or ask for their help setting the table. Try to make them feel comfortable and appreciated. On the other hand, if you are going to their house for the get together, ask them if they’d like some help, whether they need your assistance or not,” she says.
HOW TO KEEP THINGS UNDER CONTROL
We all know how things can quickly go from good to bad with just one comment. Jennifer gives a few dos and don'ts for the family gathering.
Taking it easy on the liquor
There is nothing wrong with drinking and enjoying a few glasses of alcohol with family, however too much drinking can lead to you getting drunk and embarrassing yourself in the midst of people who hold you in high regard.
“It’s reasonable to be in control of your actions, so drink with caution and stay alert of the uncertain circumstances that might occur,” she says.
You must set boundaries as to what you will and will not allow. “I know families that have had to ban adults from gatherings because they have ruined so many family gatherings in the past.”
Get everyone to agree that there are topics that simply will not be spoken about because they only bring out the worst in some of the family members. ”Don’t allow conversations to turn into a minefield of disruptive disputes. Always try to add humour,” advises Jennifer.
Set time limits
If lunch is to be served at a specific time, start exactly at that time and let everyone know if they are late, lunch will be served without them.
”The emotionally unstable personality is legendary being late in order to make vivid entrances, be the centre of attention and demonstrate dominance or control. Don’t provide them with that opportunity,” she says.
Keeping your cool
It’s true that you can’t choose family and it’s not your burden that you have that one family member who always thinks that it’s alright to spot others’ shortcomings.
This is the relative who always makes sure to remind you that you have gained weight or your car is repossessed and they would say it in a way you think they are actually concerned about your unemployment status and how old you are getting.
When you come across this relative, just smile briefly, remain composed and let them know it’s great to see them again. Then walk away from the conversation.
Relationship expert, Paula Quinsee, adds that if you are overwhelmed and feel like shouting, take a time out to gain your composure.
Don’t outshine others
It’s wonderful to share your accomplishments with family, but talking about yourself all the time can be a drag to the other relatives.
You don’t want to be that family member who other members of the family avoid chatting to and sideline from other activities because you are considered as arrogant. Try complimenting others on their successes too, rather than just talking about your milestones.