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Holiday survival: In-laws

Here we go! The holidays will be here before you know it, and that means family time. Not just any family time, mind you, but family time that will include your mother-in-law.

Although some of you may enjoy spending time with your in-law, many of you don't.

Either way, getting ready to spend the holidays with family can be stressful. How many of you wish, hope or even pray this time will be different with your in-law? You are probably thinking, why can't we, just this once, not have drama, not have the stress, or not experience the tension that just seems to `hang' in the air.

Holiday time with your in-laws doesn't have to get the best of you. Shifting the way you see your situation will make it easier for you to shift the emotions that go along with it, and this can make the difference between dread and delight.

That may seem a bit extreme, but when you can “lighten” how you perceive things, you'll actually be able to experience people in a different way. Use these tips to help:


If your in-law is coming to your house, make sure you include her in the different things that are occurring throughout the day: any food/table preparation, have her bring something she likes to make, ask her questions, compliment her on something, try to make her feel comfortable and welcomed. Treat her as you would one of your friends who was attending your family gathering.

If you are going to her house for the holiday, ask her if she'd like some help. And whether she does or doesn't want your help, stay around and talk with her, again, ask her questions, compliment her, let her know you're interested in her.


Everyone is more stressed during the holidays, including your in-law. As long as you can feel good about how you act/behave with her — that you treat her with respect and kindness — no matter what — then you can be certain her actions are not about you!


Decide to find humor in what your in-law says or does. When you do so you create an emotional distance that helps you take her actions less seriously. And by finding the humor you'll also have some great stories to tell your friends later, about what she did “this” time.


Find some quiet time for yourself so you can re-energize and regain your strength. Even just a few minutes by yourself can be just what you need to get your energy back.


Before arriving at your in-law's house, you and your spouse should have already decided how long to stay. Then leave at the predetermined time. If your spouse wants to stay longer, take two cars. Let the family know when you arrive that you will need to leave at that certain time.

If you live out of town and can't leave to go back to your home, you and your husband may need to decide to stay in a hotel for the holiday. Again, you can decide in advance when you want to go back to the hotel or to the place you are staying and then leave at the designated time. By staying at a hotel or with another family member you'll always have a "haven" to return to.

These tips that can help you make a stressful situation more manageable and you may even find you actually enjoy your time with the family, even your in-law. So do your planning, then sit back and enjoy!