Expert Tips on Dealing With the In-Laws at Christmas

While Christmas is "the most wonderful time of the year," it can also be stressful when you're cooped up with your in-laws for several days. Never fear, however, because there are some tips that can help you deal with them.

Most holiday family gatherings are less like a Hallmark card and more like the Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro movie Meet the Parents. There's intimating father-in-laws, cats you can't hope to get along with, and eventually, if you're not careful, your elevating stress-level could end up getting you arrested. No one wants that.

Luckily, University of South Florida psychologist Nicholas Joyce has shared some tips and tricks on how you can better mentally and emotionally handle the stress you might find yourself under so that you don't end up going crazy.

The first tip Dr. Joyce recommends, as shared by The Daily Mail, is to learn to accept your in-laws, and family in general, as they are and not stress yourself out with wishing they were different.

"I call this the 'rejecting reality' standpoint, and all humans get held back by it. We spend years longing for a reality that is not true. A mom who doesn't care about our weight, a dad who will express his affection toward us, a sibling who doesn't take his own issues out on us," Dr. Joyce writes.

He goes on to explain that avoiding reality can cause us to be hurt easier when our family members inevitably do or say something that offends us. The more we prepare ourselves and accept that this is who they are, Dr. Joyce theorizes, the "less reactive" we'll be in these moments, thus decreasing the amount of tension we feel over it.

The next tip Dr. Joyce offers is to "change or let go." Essentially, this boils down to either decisively confronting an issue in the moments immediately after it happens or just letting it go.

If you choose confrontation, Dr. Joyce encourages the use of an "I" statement as these are the only real control one has over a situation like this. For example, "I feel really upset when you comment on my weight and I would appreciate it if you refrained from doing so for the rest of the time I am home." This type of statement reflects the fact that you would prefer not to be ridiculed, but does not necessarily expect the offenders character to change.


Dr. Joyce's final tip is to put your tools into practice. "As you head into your holiday events, take a minute to notice what thoughts, feelings and urges come up for you. This is just information, and all of it can help us prepare a plan," he writes.

The purpose of this is to help you be ready for whatever you may encounter when you walk through the front door of your in-law's home this Christmas.