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Top Tips to Deal with In-Laws During the Holidays

Follow these tips on how to handle in-law conflicts so your holidays will be as joyful as they're meant to be.
By: Steven Auger

If preparing for the holidays seems like a never-ending to-do List, you're not alone. Finding those last minute gifts, decorating the tree, or researching Hanukkah dinner recipes can all present unique challenges on top of the typical stresses of daily home and work life. What you don't need is added anxiety that can result from clashes with your in-laws. If that's an area where you struggle, use this helpful guide for dealing with in-laws during the holidays.


Holiday Menorah

Photo Source: Flickr/Yair Aronshtam

In Law Issues

As the saying goes, you can't choose your family. That goes for your spouse's family too. Having in-law issues simply means you belong to a large club, as 3 out of 4 couples encounter in-law problems. Psychology Today delves into preventing and controlling those conflicts when they arise.

First off, you and your partner need to form a united front. That means being able to talk to your spouse about issues that might seem trivial to him but are important to you. Consider your tone when having this conversation. Your husband loves his mom, so using a critical tone towards her is more apt to rankle him than allowing him to focus on the problem.

Once you've identified the problem to him, focus on how to reach a resolution, but let him take the lead on talking to his parents. They'll likely be more willing to listen to him, in addition to reducing the chances of a confrontation with you.

Setting Boundaries

This is a necessary step you and your partner need to take in order to proactively squash issues that might arise. For example, if you're hosting this holiday season, determine a set time for them to arrive. In-laws on both sides need to understand that you and your spouse come first in each others lives. Letting them show up anytime they please on Christmas Day can create unnecessary tension when you're preparing dinner. Once you've agreed on boundaries for the in-laws, it's up to each of you to communicate them to your families. Remember, boundaries don't do any good if you don't enforce them. Be friendly about it but respectful, of course.

Holiday Travel

Besides learning how to deal with in-laws during the holidays, deciding which set to visit and when is another hurdle you and your spouse need to clear.

Jen, Bryan, and their two young sons live in Maryland. Jen is originally from Massachusetts, while Bryan comes from Ohio. Before the birth of their sons, they'd deal with long drives back home. Jen's family for Thanksgiving and Bryan's for Christmas one year while switching up the following year. Now, having two boys makes them pick and choose.

Christmas Dinner Table

"The biggest question wasn't whose turn is it but how much time we got off. Bryan's parents are much closer. If we could only swing a long weekend, we went there. If we could take off longer ,we would go to Mass", Jen wrote in an email.

They don't travel at the holidays too much now. Instead, they've compromised on a different strategy. "We usually have people here, if they can come out, and travel to visit outside of the holidays", wrote Jen. And since her parents are empty-nesters, it's much easier for them to make the trek to Maryland. Jen and Bryan are also fortunate that both sets of in-laws get along quite well with each other, so having all four under one roof for the holidays is never an issue.

If your situation doesn't work as well as theirs, Psychology Today recommends strategies to employ.

You and your spouse come first. Trying to accommodate both sets of in-laws is a sure-fire way to make the holidays miserable. Decide your holiday plans early and stick to them. That's all part of setting those boundaries.

Start Your Own Traditions

No doubt you have happy childhood memories of family traditions. Time to start making those special memories with your own family. Inviting the in-laws to celebrate the holidays in your home is a nice gesture sure to make them feel welcomed, while at the same time, you don't feel compelled to travel here there and everywhere to meet satisfy others.

Enjoying quality time with your extended family is something many folks don't get to do throughout the year. The holidays should be a happy, joyous occasion meant for enjoying the company of family and friends. If you and your partner plan accordingly, there won't be any added stress other than making a list and checking it twice and finding out if your husband has been naughty or nice.

Photo Source: Flickr/Lee Ruk

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