You better not shout. You better not pout. Your relatives are coming to town….
The last holiday season was a disaster for Dubai-based Jocelyn Anderson as her mother’s five siblings showed up for the festivities. It was a chaotic week, as Anderson was running around the city, ensuring comfortable accommodation, the right food so that there would be no allergic reactions, and the like.
However, by the time Christmas came, tempers were running high. What should have been a time of joy and feasting, turned into an exchange of layered barbs over food, disagreements over different topics including the cats, at home.
As a result, everyone ate pie in different rooms on Christmas night.
“Basically, I’m not hosting anyone this year,” she says rather grimly.
The holiday season, joyful as it sounds, does bring its own baggage of stress, especially if you have relatives to host at home. There’s much to do, but don’t worry. We got you covered.
Here’s how to tackle guests at home during the holiday season:
Sadly, you can’t plan out your holidays just like those cosy Christmas films show. However, what you can do is be realistic about what you can do.
As American-Indian Dubai-based event planner Shelley Jacobs explains, don’t burn yourself out going overboard with decorations at home to impress your relatives. Plan what is affordable for you, in terms of décor and food. “Everyone has different ideas of the holidays and not all expectations can be fulfilled,” she says. Repurpose last year’s decorations; see what you can upcycle.
One key thing to remember: Your relatives are not going to change suddenly during the festivities. If you found them difficult before, you’ll find them difficult now too. “The key is to not expect some miraculous change in their attitude, because you set yourself up for disappointment. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, so setting unrealistic expectations will just upset you further,” adds May Addison, a Canadian Dubai-based life coach and wellness expert. So take a few deep breaths, before you start planning for the holidays.
What happened last Christmas?
Observe the unhealthy patterns and conversation minefields, explains Addison. Anticipate those same problems and patterns that could take place this time too. Look at how you can block them, she says. See what you can plan beforehand or change, during the visit itself.
See if you can plan for brief visits, she suggests. Think of different activities, and say no to things you don’t want to do, or look for alternatives.
How to navigate difficult conversations
Talk about things that you know won’t end in disagreement, says Addison. Try sports, films or pop-culture and keep them engaged in those kinds of conversations. Establish a common ground; it’s best to avoid contentious and unfamiliar topics. By the off-chance, someone picks up a rather controversial subject, be politely non-committal about it and say, “Oh, is that so?” And then naturally change the subject. Just to avoid this, prepare a list of easy, light subjects, she adds.
Politely excuse yourself. Go to the washroom, take a few deep breaths and return. Remember to keep your cool and don’t be argumentative. Look for the quiet space in your home, where you can just be by yourself for a while. You don’t have a compulsion to be around them all the time
However, sometimes, things happen that aren’t in our control. So pick your battles. See what’s worth fighting for, and whether you should let it go, says Addison. “If you know that one relative will invariably pick up a sensitive topic, think of how you will handle it, without getting upset.”
Remove yourself, if necessary
Now just by chance, someone says something that will upset you, take a few deep breaths, advises Beverley Wylie, wellness expert and the founder of Wellness We Need, based in Dubai.
Politely excuse yourself. Go to the washroom, take a few deep breaths and return. Remember to keep your cool and don’t be argumentative, says Wylie. That is, if you don’t want the festivities ending on a sour note. There is no point engaging in verbal battles, she adds. Look for the quiet space in your home, where you can just be by yourself for a while. You don’t have a compulsion to be around them all the time, she says.
Follow self-care rituals
It might sound mundane and drab, but you will need self-care rituals to avoid getting overwhelmed by your extended family members, warn the experts.
Do whatever it takes, says Addison. Yoga, books, or just watching a film. However, make sure you’re one step ahead to avoid last-minute chaos. Do what you can before time, so you will feel less stressed in front of your family members.