Not everyone is lucky enough to get along with their in-laws. In fact, I can honestly say MOST people have trouble at some stage or other.
It is hard when you visit your in-laws and they have their set of jokes, their ways of doing things, little traditions and so on that you think are totally weird and that go over your head. And they probably think you and your family can be strange at times too, which doesn’t help.
Then there are the in-laws that are totally bat-shit crazy and nothing you will ever do will be good enough. To be honest, it’s easier to ignore those ones, they aren’t worth knowing.
In any case, here are six tips on surviving Christmas with your in-laws (or when the in-laws come and visit you) – so you too can have a little peace and harmony over the holidays.
1. Put Them Up In A Hotel Or Granny Flat
Think about a bit of separation. Basically, if you know it’s going to be stressful to have them in your home all the time, tell them as much and make other arrangements. Having that space particularly at night with the kids nightly routine will ease most in-law tensions so you can either vent at night time – or just have time alone with your family. It is very hard to have constant visitors in your home, and you might be surprised just how much more civil things are when everyone gets a break from each other. If they aren’t able to stay in a hotel, try to keep their visits short or share the load, so they aren’t staying with you for long periods of time.
If you’re concerned about what their reaction might be to being told you can’t have them in your house, don’t be afraid to make up some little white lies. Tell them that you’re having some issues with water pressure in your showers, or that your baby is going through a ‘night screaming’ phase. Pretty much anything to make it apparent to them that your house is not an option!
2. Give them Jobs to Do
Sometimes, in-laws tend to ‘hover’ if they are in your home. They aren’t sure what to do, and therefore will just try and jump in and help with whatever you are doing… and sometimes, it is a right pain in the arse. To avoid this, set them little jobs. Get your father-in-law to clean and start the barbeque or go and get ice. Get your mother in law to take the kids to the local pool or fold your washing. They will feel more comfortable knowing they are doing something that will help you and your family, and will help that ‘awkwardness’ that can happen when they hover.
Plus don’t forget to give your in-laws one-on-one time with their child. Send your partner and his or her parents out of the house for a day – it will give you time to relax – and if they take the kids, even better, you have time to yourself. It’s a win-win!
3. Exit the Room When You Can See Something Might Escalate
I love my in-laws, but I also love to take the time to go to bed really early when they visit. It gives them time with their child, plus I can get away from any conversation where I totally disagree with them and know I won’t be able to keep my mouth shut. Plus, they have shit taste in television. I find that this method is a really good choice when you feel that things might escalate into a snappy or snarky argument. Just take yourself out of the picture, calm down, and try again.
If you’re feeling this happen during the day, there are options! Take off without the kids and go shopping or meet up with friends, just getting out can clear your head and improve your perspective. Remember, they’re only here short-term, and sometimes, just grinning and bearing it is the best way though.
4. Talk About What Christmas Means to You and Vice Versa!
Christmas to me means a lunch-time feast with all the trimmings, hot gravy, Christmas decorations, gifts and time with the children. But, Christmas to my in-laws is just another day – they aren’t really ‘into it’ with all the festivities, and don’t much care for the decorating or the little traditions that make Christmas so special for me. So if we are going to go to their place, I am sometimes disappointed as Christmas isn’t the same. Still, I don’t blame them, that’s just how they do it. But, communication is the key here. If they are coming to my house, they get all the ‘Mega-Christmas Experience’, but we adjust to make it lower key. In the same thread, if we go to their place, I’ll bring a chicken to cook or a platter of seafood so a little of our celebrations are incorporated into theirs.
Bringing together two families is often about balancing out two ways of doing things. Your voice should definitely be heard, but make sure to talk about it in advance when tensions aren’t already high. You should feel that you can make your mark on the celebration, but so should they, so plan accordingly.
5. They Get Upset When You Have Christmas With Your Family
This is a big one, and I know I’m not the only person who has struggled with it. There are two sets of parents, and only one Christmas Day. This can be even more exasperating if your parents are separated, or if you want to spend Christmas with your siblings and someone can’t attend. Your in-laws need to understand that your parents, and your family, are important too. Either spend Christmas Day with one, and Boxing Day with the other, or take turns depending on the year. One year at one parents place, the other year at the other.
Another alternative is to invite both sets of parents to your place – however, with siblings and cousins etc, this can get huge and a bit unmanageable. To make it easier on yourself – get everyone to bring a plate and to give you a hand. In-laws have to behave (usually) when extended family are there!
6. Your Own Children Come First
Travelling all over the countryside on Christmas Day can put a huge pressure on your own children, particularly when they’re young. It can also put a massive pressure on you when they’re teenagers, and you have to manage their rollercoaster mood swings. Yes, it is lovely that they will get to see Nanna and Grandad, but if your children are small or really hard to travel with – don’t do it. There are some instances where it just isn’t worth it! You don’t have to do something every year, and it’s ok to tell your family, in-laws included, that it’s just too hard.
Christmas is about family, but your nuclear family is just as important as your extended family. If doing something, be it travelling or running around to different Christmas events, is going to stress you out and ruin Christmas for your family, you should definitely opt out!
How do you deal with your in-laws at Christmas time?