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5 Tips for Enjoying Family Gatherings

Ronnie Friedland
Dec. 2, 2009

Whether you love getting together with relatives or can't stand it, here is helpful advice for surviving the experience.

As the winter holidays approach, you may find yourself eagerly anticipating being reunited with your far-flung sibs for a few days...or then again, perhaps you find yourself dreading Sue's hubbie Jeff's repetition of the same jokes each year, while Mom once again serves a burnt apple pie.

But your kids may just be looking forward to being surrounded by family members. For kids, family often means security, people who care about them, remember their birthdays and that their first word was "juice."

If you need to travel to gather with your family, you may want to bring along some of your kids' favorite stuffed animals, books and toys. Having these items around can give your child something to do while the adults are clearing the table and gossiping about cousin Amy's boyfriend's tattoos.

In general, having fun can depend on whether or not your kids feel comfortable, if there are activities that engage them, if there are other kids the same ages as your kids or people who will spend time with them playing cards, ring around the rosy, pool or their favorite video game. Young children may enjoy helping with dinner preparation if they are given simple tasks such as stirring the sauce, putting napkins by each place at the table, decorating a place mat, or deciding who sits next to whom.

  1. Help the Grandparents Interact With Your Children
    Most kids adore their grandparents, and vice versa. Helping the grandparents interact with your kids, by giving them books to read to them or bringing a favorite board game, can help set the stage for a gathering that all can enjoy.

  2. Don't Expect Anyone to be Different
    If Fran always puts you or your child down, she'll probably do it again. Just be prepared with a response that will reframe the situation, subtly reminding her that her comments are offensive without creating a family feud. For instance, if she once again exclaims how tall your daughter is, meaning too tall, you can respond, "Yes, isn't she gorgeous!"

  3. Try to Anticipate Problems and Come Up With Strategies for Circumventing Them
    If your brother lets his kids run wild, while you are more safety conscious, see if you can agree on an activity for all your children to do together. Choose an activity that has inherent limitations and will let you relax, such as ping pong in the basement, art in the playroom or hide and seek on the second floor.

  4. Get Everyone Involved
    See if you can come up with at least one activity that everyone can participate in. If your kids are over 5, charades can be a fun family game, one that enables them to come up with names of books, videos or TV shows with which they are familiar, and to act them out to the level of their ability.

  5. Take Photos or Videos to Build Family Memories Family photos can be casual, with people in everyday clothes, or more formal, with dressier attire. You may want to have everyone doing something, like cheering or saying their birth date, or whatever feels comfortable for your family style.

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