Your Guide to Surviving Your Family Over the Holidays

parents meeting partner

Last Updated on November 20, 2023

The holidays are coming up. The big family gathering is planned, and everyone will be there. But no matter how much you might love your family, they stress you out.

There’s always one relative with nothing nice to say and another who can’t stop talking about themselves. You can already hear the awkward dinner table conversation; if you’re not looking forward to it, you’re not alone. Millions of people clash with their families on the holidays, but we make the sojourn all the same.

Maybe you’re solo this holiday, and your mom will harp about when you’re ever getting married. Or even scarier, maybe you’re bringing a partner, and it’s their first time meeting all of your crazy family. No matter what awaits you at Grandma’s house this year, we’ve got you covered.

Here is your emergency survival guide for making it through your family holiday this year.

Prepare Before the Trip

Get yourself ready before you even start packing your bags. Mentally prepare for what’s ahead and make preparations to help you get through several days (or even weeks) of quality family time.

Brace Yourself

Mentally review everything that stresses you out about family holidays. Write down each worry and plan how you might deal with it. 

Pack Your Tunes

Music makes everything better. Spend some time putting together new playlists. Make sure you pack your device fully charged, plus charging cables and a wall port. Don’t forget a USB power bank to multiply the time you can listen to music without recharging.

Secure Allies

Do you have siblings, cousins, or a cool aunt who feels the same way you do? Or at least, would have your back in a pinch? Get in touch before the gathering and form an alliance. Support each other against nosy intrusions or unwanted pressure, and provide on-point conversational rescues during your holiday together.

Have a Game Plan for Uncomfortable Conversations


There are a few helpful strategies that can overcome unhealthy holiday conversations. You can prepare yourself and practice these techniques to neatly side-stepping the conversational landmines ahead.

Set Boundaries with Potentially Hostile Relatives

Be frank with relatives who disagree with your choices or lifestyle. Set boundaries and make it clear that you simply won’t discuss certain topics with them. Ask them politely not to “go there” and then stick to your guns by refusing to respond to probing questions or barbed comments.

Prepare to Break Awkward Silences

Have a few default conversation topics to break awkward silences. Ask about food plans, pets, and hobbies. Ask if they’ve seen any good movies lately, how their trip to Grandma’s house was, and if the weather was kind to them. In other words, lob conversational softballs that the other person can easily answer without getting personal.

Practice Firmly Redirecting or Declining Unwanted Attention

When you want to change the subject, practice firm re-directs. If you have to, say something noncommittal like “That’s okay,” or “Oh, I’m fine,” then redirect the conversation by asking someone else a question that they actually want to answer. Ask your cousin about their latest video game or aunt about her latest art project. Make it a positive moment for someone else instead of a negative moment for you.

Leave (Peacefully) When You’ve Had Enough

If it gets to be too much, it’s OK to leave. You can walk away if you can’t take another question or barb about your personal life or another awkward staring silence. Just remember to be polite. Quietly excuse yourself to take a walk, a bath, tend the fire, or whatever. Then depart without a care.

If you can, extend a rescue to an ally and invite them to come with you or help you with something outside.

Introducing Your Partner to Your Crazy Family

One of the scariest things in the world is introducing your new partner to your crazy family over the holidays. Sure, it might be a heartwarming and important experience to share. But you might also expect to run defense the whole time. Fortunately, you can prepare yourself and your partner for whatever might lie ahead.

Describe a Few Past Holidays

Warn your partner through stories. Tell them about the craziest, funniest, and most hurtful moments of past holidays with your family. Help them understand just what kind of minefield of loving, wacked-out minefield they might be walking into.

Help Them Prepare for Your Family’s Brand of Rude

Brace your partner for the special kind of rudeness that your family shows only during the holidays. Whether it’s personal questions or bawdy jokes, make sure your partner won’t be left aghast at the first casual faux pas.

Put On Your “Cool” Personas

Prepare to be your coolest selves. It’s okay to tailor your personas as a couple when trying to make a good first impression. Pick your outfits together, practice a few of your couple stories, and go over what it might be best not to mention. Build a way to present yourselves as a team that will help you breeze through family encounters together.

Promise to Stick Together and Leave Whenever

Lastly, make an important promise: That you will stick together when the conversation gets rough and that you can leave if either of you get overwhelmed. You can both take a walk or even go home if your family can’t behave themselves in front of your partner.

Find Your Bliss

Thanksgiving dinner

No matter how irritating your relatives might be, there’s always something fun to do on the holidays. Go against the grain and actually enjoy yourself in whatever ways are available. Having a good time might even invite more positive interactions.

Discover Ways to Have Fun

Look for unexpected sources of fun. Dig into the old board games cabinet. Fire up an old game console collecting dust in the entertainment center. Shovel snow with your grandad and listen to old stories. Learn to crochet from your quiet aunt. Play with the family dogs for a few hours. You might be surprised at the hidden sources of fun over the holidays while avoiding your more abrasive relatives.

Go for Walks with Peaceful Relatives

Consider going for walks or sitting on the porch with your quiet relatives. You can talk or not talk, whatever feels more comfortable. Just keep each other company in mutual peace as a way to escape the chaos.

Spend Time with the Little Kids

If there are small children in your family, they might know where the real fun is. Even if it’s just making snowmen, building with Legos, or digging a hole in the yard. Some people sit at the “kid’s table” and have better conversations over apple juice than sipping wine and nogging with adults.

Let It Roll Off Your Shoulders

Most importantly, try to let everything over the holidays just roll off your shoulders. Your relatives are going to be nosy, rude, or whatever. That’s just who they are. If you resolve to avoid engaging in their antics and not take anything personally, you can move through the holiday like a cool breeze. Take time to relax, catch a breath of fresh air when needed, and you’ll probably discover a low-key alliance of other relatives trying to stay out of the drama.

Reward Yourself When You Get Home

Finally, plan something nice for your arrival back home. Give yourself something to look forward to for yourself, no matter how your holiday goes. That way, even if your relatives manage to get under your skin, you know something nice awaits you at the other end of your flight or drive home. Whether it’s a movie night alone or a big outing with your besties, it can be your way to relax and celebrate making it through another family holiday.

With these tips, you can learn how to survive the holidays around your family and maybe enjoy yourself, too!

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