8 holiday tips for dealing with difficult relatives

Holidays can be tough. Some people love them; some people dread them. I thought a lot about the holidays as I was writing Happier at Home, because the holiday season tends to be a time when we focus on home. Maybe you’re going “home” the way I go home to Kansas City for Christmas –which may be fun for you, or not. Maybe you’re deciding how to decorate your home. Maybe you’re making an effort to arrange the holidays the way you experienced them as a child – or the opposite. Maybe you’re feeling sad, or happy, about whom you will or won’t be seeing.

From talking to people, it seems that one of the biggest happiness challenges of the holidays is dealing with difficult relatives. You want to have a nice dinner, but Uncle Bobby makes you crazy. What to do? You might be surprised to discover you can't change what Bobby is going to do; but you can change what you do – and that can change a relationship. Here are eight tips for doing that.

Corcoran Gallery/AP
Christmas with family doesn't have to be stressful, we have eight tips to help you enjoy time with family. Here, Norman Rockwell's oil on canvas, 'Freedom from Want,' part of an exhibit at Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art on May 13, 2004.

1. Spend a few minutes thinking about how you want to behave

Ahead of time. If you’ve had unpleasant experiences in the past, think about why they were unpleasant and what you could do to change the dynamics of the situation. Get more sleep. Give yourself more travel time. Pick a seat far away from Uncle Bobby. 

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