Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

So you survived Thanksgiving with the family, and now Christmas is only a few weeks away and you’re just not sure you can keep that smile pasted to your face through one more holiday meal. This survival guide will help you maintain until the last present is unwrapped and the last morsel of ham (or in our case, lasagne) is scooped off the plate.

Barbed Questions – Watch Out for the Hook

If you’ve ever gone fishing and baited your own hook, you’ll know it’s not the pointy sharp end of the hook you have to watch for but the barbs along the hook designed to keep the fish on the line. Questions from family members can catch you just like a hook.

“Are you and XXX going to get married/have a baby soon?”

Regardless of what fills in your particular barbed hook, this nosy question may simply be aunt Martha wanting to know what’s going on but more likely is a statement of “Why haven’t you yet.” There’s only one way to deal with the hooks: avoid them.

Best way to answer: “How sweet of you to ask! Can I get you another glass of wine?”

There’s a Critic in Everyone

Whether they complain about the way you cook, the way you do your hair, or the five pounds you gain since they last saw you, these are the people who truly know how to make the holiday miserable before you even get to the day.

The don’t ask questions but instead make statements like “I could never eat that much…I’d be stuffed!” (as you help yourself to a second serving of dinner). Or, “I’ve always thought long hair only looks good on women under 40.”

Don’t worry, there’s no winning with this one. The solution is to have a very strong glass of wine (or a shot of Southern Comfort) before this person arrives, so that everything they say can be taken with a smile and a giggle. She’ll be hoping for a different reaction, so enjoy throwing her off-kilter, then offer her the dip for the veggies.

Politics and Religion for Dinner?

We all know it’s against the rules to bring up politics or religion at a family meal, but the land mines are often laid so thick that you won’t even realize you’ve given someone the perfect segue to spout their opinions until it’s too late. The best approach is a direct one, reminding everyone at the table who are about to come to blows that the rule is no political talk. Then pass the mashed potatoes.

The direct approach works well for those occasional family guests who still think it’s ok to tell racist or sexist jokes, especially around the kids. These are the guests for whom it is completely ok to take aside and explain that you simply won’t tolerate it in your house and around your children. Just do it with a smile.

Quirks and Kinks

So your sister won’t stop talking about how much she loved Fifty Shades of Grey or your grandson will only eat meat and bread and not the delicious cornbread stuffing you prepared with roasted pecans?

Take a deep breath, look around, appreciate that you are all together, and let it go.

Families can be our best source of strength or our biggest frustration, especially around the holidays. The best thing you can do is remind yourself that life is too short to worry about it. Just enjoy the moment and do what you can to change the direction of the conversation when you think you might otherwise tear your hair out.