We’re entering the season filled with awe, wonder, gratitude, and dread. It’s that time of year where we get to spend time with family we love. Sometimes, we get to spend time with family who are easier to love at a distance.
Let’s be honest, just because we grew up together doesn’t mean we now have the same worldview, parenting styles, standards, goals, or aspirations. And sometimes we love every member of our family, and are mostly on the same page as them, but it’s just overwhelming when they all get together at once.
Today I give you a handy guide to having less stress, more fun, and perhaps even eternally significant extended family gatherings this Thanksgiving and Christmas
- Release yourself from the guilt of thinking you’re going to please everybody.
- Stop sabotaging the peace of all of the days leading up to your family gathering.
- Make a plan. Aim to stick with your plan. Walk in grace when you cannot stick to your plan.
- “How am I going to calendar these next few weeks with enough margin to not run ragged?”
- “How am I going to coach my children for some of the unsavory experiences they might encounter with our extended family?”
- “Knowing that I do not trust this particular person in my family, how am I going to make sure that my children are not left in vulnerable situations with them?”
- “How am I going to redirect conversations with grace when they go down gossipy or destructive pathways?”
- “How am I going to lovingly hold my boundaries when this particular family member tries to guilt or manipulate me?”
- “How am I going to love and support my spouse as they navigate the different people in their family?”
- Intentionally instill a time of personal worship and gratitude, for you and your immediate family.
- Don’t miss the teaching and training opportunities in your own family. Have honest conversations (without gossip or disparaging) with some of the struggles you’ve had in your family before. Teach them how you’ve tried to love and also live in boundaries. Affirm their feelings if they don’t like some of their cousins. Coach them on how to show love to hard people.
- Don’t go to your gatherings to “just get through them”, go seeking to be an instrument of grace.
- Bring your other family members in as best as you can on the plan. If it’s dreadful for you, likely it’s dreadful for other family members. Since you have some time, start talking about how you might intentionally make the time more meaningful as you’re together. Maybe each family can put together a little photo video project of what happened over the last year. Maybe you can plan a service project together. Maybe as a family you can adopt a family in need and work together to provide for them.
- Think of ways you can be “others first” without feeling resentful and manipulated.
- Don’t add to your spouse’s stress by guilting them over their family.
- Pray for your family!