Family get-togethers can be a double-edged sword. While it is wonderful to see everyone you love in one place, tensions and disagreements between family members may arise and put a damper on things. The key is proper planning and setting the right tone so that your next family gathering is full of happiness and connection rather than family drama.
Set Clear Expectations
Everyone comes into a family gathering with different expectations shaped by previous experiences. This year, set clear expectations beforehand so there are no surprises. Send out a group text or email with details confirming the location, time, attending family members, and if anything will be expected from guests (like bringing certain dishes). You can even note if there have been tensions around topics like politics in the past and kindly ask everyone to keep conversations positive and uplifting.
Create a Welcoming Atmosphere
It’s amazing what calming scents, soft music, and cosy lighting can do to set the tone. Make your gathering spot inviting with scented candles, instrumental holiday music in the background, and lamps scattered in areas where people will be conversing. Having snacks and beverages out also contributes to a welcoming atmosphere. Use holiday or family-related decorations to stimulate good memories and happy nostalgia.
Plan Interactive Activities
Bored family members often lead to restlessness and unnecessary critiques or arguments just for something to do. Fill your time together with activities everyone would enjoy like games, putting together a puzzle, looking through old photos and reminiscing, baking holiday treats, assembling gift baskets for charity, or watching a family-friendly movie. Activities provide positive interactions and give shyer family members conversation starters to bond with relatives they may not know too well. For example, if you are fostering in Wiltshire and have welcomed a foster child into your family, once they are settled, you could invite a family member to visit. Planning some activities and games will help smooth things along.
Keep the Focus on Making Happy New Memories
We all go through personal struggles and pain but a family gathering shouldn’t be used as a therapy session. If a relative is going through something difficult, plan to be there for them at a separate dedicated time. Use your gathering to focus on making positive new memories as a family, rather than dwelling on the negative issues of one person. Laughter and quality bonding shift our mindsets to grateful and happy in the present moment.
Redirect Tense Conversations
Visiting family means different personalities, opinions, lifestyles, and values colliding in one room. Tense discussions may come up but redirect conversations before they escalate into hurtful
arguments. If religion or politics start heating things up simply stand up and announce dessert is being served or redirect by asking who would like to play a game. It is ok to let guests know some subjects are best avoided for collective harmony.
The key is focusing on all the reasons you are grateful to have your family members in your life in the first place. Their laughter, wisdom, support, and love are what life’s moments together should uplift. With some music, great food, meaningful connection and lighter conversations, your next family gathering can be stress-free and full of fun generation-bridging bonding.