They are the best of times and the worst of times. Family gatherings can be amazing fun as you reconnect with the people you love most. But they can also lead to emotionally-charged situations as houses are filled to the brim with a diverse group of people who have seen you at your best and at your worst. Here’s a family gathering survival checklist to help you navigate these special times with joy and grace.
1. Plan Group Games
Things can get awkward as you sit around the living room staring at each other. A great way to bring the fun and get people laughing and socializing is to have a few favorite group games ready to go. Some of our favorites are Telestrations, Taboo, Reverse Charades, Code Names and Hoopla. These are all games you can play with large groups. You might also want to check out the book Unplug and Play: 50 Original Group Games That Don’t Need Charging.
2. Make a List of Love
Before the gathering, take a few minutes to write a list of things you love about each person attending. This will help build excitement for the visit and will be good to think about when your Aunt insults your homemade apple pie or your brother notices that you’ve gained a few pounds.
3. Plan Food with Special Needs in Mind
It’s hard to plan food that will work for every person in your family, but a little effort goes a long way to help people feel loved. So, be the person to remember Uncle Larry’s egg allergy and make him some rolls he can eat.
4. Focus Outward
Make a conscious choice to focus on others who might feel awkward or left out. Rather than worrying about how you look or what everyone thinks of you, put your effort into helping others feel included and loved. For example, ask about your sister’s job. Find out what sports your niece is playing this year. Give family members sincere compliments on the food they’ve prepared.
5. Plan for Kids
Set aside a table or nook with crafts or activities for kids. While some of the kids might love sitting and talking with cousins, others might need more attention. Planning a few simple activities ahead of time is easier than trying to reign them back in once they’re bored and bouncing off the walls. And, if you’re visiting someone else’s home, ask if you can bring an activity for the little people.
6. Come Bearing Gifts
Whether it’s a bottle of their favorite beverage, an ornament, or a bouquet of flowers, bring a small gift for your host. Regardless of how much they may love hosting everyone for the holidays, it’s a ton of work. A gift shows that you recognize their sacrifice, and starts the event off in a positive way.
7. Make a List of Safe Conversation Topics
Every family has its own special drama. Some of it is obvious, like talking about a recent divorce… or a recent election… and some of it you have no idea about until you walk right into an awkward zone. Save yourself a headache and come up with a few safe topics in advance to bring up if there’s a lull in dinner conversation. Ask if anyone’s read a fun fiction book recently. Tell a funny story about something that happened to you at work. Ask your aunt about the marathon she just ran.
8. Lose Control
As much as you want to make everyone feel welcome, realize that you are not responsible for every single guest’s good time. You can’t control what people say, what they do, or their attitude. Realize that you can only control your own actions and words and let go of the false sense of control or responsibility for those around you.
With a little planning and a lot of patience and love, family gatherings can be some of the best times of the year. I know I’ll miss hanging out with my family this holiday season! May your time with your loved ones be blessed and drama-free.
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Looking for more ideas for a fabulous family gathering? Check out some of these fun ideas: