“Happy holidays!” “Merry Christmas!” For a few months, everyone is wishing the best for each other everywhere they go. Why do we do that? If the holidays are days that we take off from work so that they can be enjoyed with family and friends, wouldn’t it make more sense to say something like “happy May”? By then we’ll have half-forgotten the last holiday season and the next will still seem like it’s a lifetime away.
But the holiday season has its own issues that require well-wishes. Holidays aren’t usually spent alone; they’re spent with other people. And like the holidays people can be remarkably flexible when it comes to pleasantness. One minute you can be having the best conversation you’ve had all year, and by the next things have deteriorated so thoroughly that you’d rather last May had never ended.
So it makes sense that we wish one another happy holidays; we do it because we all know the potential for disaster that comes with being together. But wishing each other the best can only do so much. It reminds us that we aren’t alone in the holiday-drama struggle, but does it can’t actually make our holidays happy. If we want to really change things, to really make the holidays better for us and for the people that we spend them with, we need to prepare. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
- Keep people busy – Bored people can quickly turn into dramatic people, so plan activities that will keep your guests occupied. What are they interested in? Do they like zoos, playing with the kids at the park, going to museums or sporting events? Keeping people busy is even more useful if you can find things to do that are good topics for later conversation. The best activities are those which can be used to redirect awkward conversations when everyone is back at home.
- Keep the kids busy – Even if your activities thrill the adults, drama can slip in undetected when there are bored kids involved. To keep the kids entertained you can print fun coloring sheets like these or even printable games for free (from hey mommy chocolate milk). If you’re looking for something else, try searching Pinterest for games and activities. Be sure to stock up on any necessary supplies, too (colors, stickers, etc.). Remember, grumpy kids = grumpy adults.
- Plan pointless conversations – We all know that it’s coming: the awkward moment when a conversation sputters into silence and everyone carefully studies their own shoes. It’s an unavoidable part of the holidays, so prepare for it before it happens. Think through what you know about a few of the people who you’re likely to talk to and make a list of topics that won’t spark drama. When the awkwardness sets in you can use those topics to revive a dead conversation. Just be sure to choose your topics with care. A room full of silence may not be ideal, but it’s still better than a room full of drama.
- Don’t “take the bait” – Some people accidentally get caught in holiday drama, but others are looking for it from the moment they knock on the door. You probably already know who the drama-seekers are, so be ready for them. Plan to ask yourself this when you feel the need to debate or defend a position: if you were to prove the arguer wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt, would they then admit their error and back down? If not, be ready to change the subject or politely find something else to do.
- When all else fails, be wrong – If you’re stuck in an argument with someone who won’t let it go, pretend that you may have been wrong after all. Wow, I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll have to reconsider my view. You can reconsider your view then and there, say nothing more, and hopefully satisfy your impassioned friend or family member’s need to convince you of something.