Ways To Reduce Friction Among Family During the Holidays

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When it’s your turn to host the family for a celebration, quell the dread with these ways to reduce friction among family during the holidays.

Your youngest is teething, your toddler is anxious about the naughty list, and your first-grader is distraught because some know-it-all kid cast doubt on the existence of a certain fat guy that comes down the chimney. On top of that, your mother-in-law is coming to stay for a long weekend! Fabulous!

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce friction among family during the holidays. You know your mom will provide an abundance of unsolicited child-rearing advice, and your brother-in-law will try to injure your spouse in a pick-up game of whatever they call that free-for-all happening on the lawn.

Take a deep breath. You can get through this with grace. 

Set the Tone 

Creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere can go a long way when hosting a family holiday event. When it’s your turn to host the holiday occasion, prepare by cleaning and decorating.

Keep in mind that no matter how festive and spotless your home looks, your most cynical guest will find something to grouse about anyway.

Take a deep breath and let it go. Treat your relatives’ visit as a good excuse to get after household tasks you’ve wanted to do for a long time, and enjoy how much better you feel about your home. 

Don’t Take the Bait

You know perfectly well which family members will try to provoke you. Perhaps they enjoy pushing people’s buttons, or maybe they just really need some attention. Prepare yourself in advance to deflect attempts to set you off. 

When cousin Frank or sister-in-law Sue try to get under your skin, smile and respond with something completely unrelated. They’ll tell you “everyone knows” the family hates Brussels sprouts when you present the dish you prepared. They may say, “too bad you forgot the ice cream,” when you serve pie with whipped cream or custard.

When this happens, smile and ask, “How did your garden do this year?” or “I found these wonderful new dinner rolls at the bakery!” If a family member persists in making critical remarks or asking intrusive questions, smile and say, “Oh, I’m sure we can find something more interesting to talk about!” Refuse to engage in the discussion they’re trying to force upon you.

By now, you’ve learned that you can’t change other adults’ behaviors. You can only control your reaction to it. Accept that your relatives are never going to change, and focus on controlling your own reactions. 


If the kitchen gets crowded with relatives offering advice (criticism), give them a job. Your guests may feel awkward or cast aside after years of preparing the family meal themselves. Welcoming someone into your kitchen is tough, but giving your chief provocateur something to do takes the focus off criticizing you.

Limit Booze

There is always that family member whose purpose during the holidays seems to be suctioning up every last drop of alcohol in the house. Lock up the booze if you must.

Take charge of pouring (or not pouring) the wine, and watch your own consumption. Alcohol inevitably loosens tongues. Controlling alcohol consumption is a great way to reduce family friction during the holidays.

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