5 Ideas for Handling Family During the Holidays

Ah, the blessings of family get-togethers!

And the challenges of families getting together…

Handling Family During Holidays

Handling Family During Holidays

Here are a few tips I share with my clients (I work as a counselor) or that I’ve learned the hard way myself:

1) Discuss etiquette with the kids ahead of time.

If they are young, rehearse table manners, taking turns, and quiet voices. If they are older, empower them to impress the family with their chivalrous behavior (thus providing a good advertisement for homeschooling.) One powerful way to help kids with etiquette is to give them concrete social skills that they can utilize at any time necessary. We 7Sisters have taught our kids 10 special skills that they will need throughout life (especially at large family get togethers) and share them in our Social Skills for Kids guide. Download it. You’ll be glad you did.

Social Skills for Children

2) Decide ahead of time what will be the “off-limits” topics of conversation.

You can discuss this with the extended family or just your immediate family. Then, if the conversation steers off-limits, you already know to jump in with, “Let’s get back to that another day… but I’d LOVE to hear about your trip to Bothaville.” (Get them talking about themselves- usually a great distraction.) 

3) Decide ahead of time that if it doesn’t have eternal value, let it go.

Aunt Sally Sue criticizes the gravy lumps, Grandma Jones criticizes your haircut, Uncle Bob makes fun of homeschooling… Take a breath. You DON’T have to correct anyone’s bad manners. This can be a difficult one for teens (and adults). Listen to this episode of Homeschool Highschool Podcast for ideas to help.

HSHSP Ep 38 Holiday Social Skills for Teens. Enhance your teens' confidence, empower them for success in life with social skills.
Click image to listen to episode.

4) Keep activities at hand.

Always a good idea for children or adults. Humans at loose ends are primed for irritating behavior. (Try crafts, games, hikes, or musical instruments.)

5) Coach yourself on good role modeling.

Keep your shoulders back, chin up just a tad, smile… These are non-verbals that tell everyone that you are calm and collected. It helps set the tone for the day.  Laugh often, encourage and compliment others as often as is honest. Pray.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are times of blessing and joy; of recalibrating and prayer. If you’d like a little encouragement in your prayer life, check out our Prayer Journals (prayer prompts and activities) and FREE Genesis 1 Study Guide and Carry Each Other’s Burdens (a guide on things that are truly helpful when a friend is in crisis).

carry each others burdens

Want some more encouragement? Here is Sabrina’s vlog on Undirected Socialization!

Handling Family During Holidays


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Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

4 Replies to “5 Ideas for Handling Family During the Holidays”

  1. Thank you — I’m reading this as we are heading out the door to our Thanksgiving gathering. I struggle each year with having a bit of grace in dealing with one person there. Your words helped me.

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

  2. If there’s anything that I’ve learned from past family gatherings, it’s keeping activities on hand. Having an assortment of board games for the kids is vital, but one of my coworkers from DISH pointed out that they’re not good for all age levels. I let the younger ones who just don’t have the attention span for board games use my iPad to watch all the On Demand content available for kids through my DISH Remote Access app. Not only is there a huge selection of kid friendly stuff for them to watch, but they get a kick out of watching on the smaller screen. With the kids entertained and occupied, it leaves a lot more time for us adults to catch up with one another.

  3. You can also empower your children against the “nosy” people who try to pump them for information. A simple, “You’ll have to ask my mom about that” can redirect the curious, get your children out of the fire, and the chances are slim that they actually want to ask YOU.

  4. Excellent tips, Vicki! I just finished listening to a series of teachings on handling “crazy-makers” who seem intent on stirring up conflict (from Saddleback church).

    If your family has a crazy-maker (or two!) in it, you are teaching your kids super-important life skills when you help equip them before your family gathering. There will always be a variety of tense situations for us to handle in life, and tips like 2 & 3 above are so important for knowing how to be gracious but healthy in facing them.

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