It might seem like a joke that only exists in romantic comedies, but the stress of visiting the in-laws can be enough to make anyone rip their hair out. For example, many grandparents think that because they raised your spouse, they can take the wheel when it comes to raising your own children. Others might not hesitate at the chance to throw a cruel observation when you burn the Christmas roast. Regardless of your situation, keeping cool, calm, and collected in front of your children is a necessity during the holidays.
This is because children are like sponges: they will notice every interaction you have with others, whether you think they’re watching or not. If you happen to react to a stressful situation with extreme anger or irritability, your kids might think this is the proper response to stress. After all, most children learn through imitation. Emotional reactions are human, but controlling yourself is parenting.
Here are some of the best ways to cope with the stress of seeing your in-laws — and how to set a good example for your kids during the holidays.
Monitor your emotions and deflect negativity
It isn’t easy to be the bigger person, but this is one of the best examples you can set for your children. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re visiting in-laws with your kids:
- Kids aren’t naive and they’ll notice when your in-laws are being crass. If you deflect their negativity, this can reduce pressure and make for a more stable situation.
- When they see you respond positively to an otherwise negative situation, your kids will know that arguing isn’t the only answer.
- Your kids can tell when you’re uncomfortable. Prioritizing emotional intelligence and clear communication can set a great example.
This is doubly important if your in-laws are acting emotionally. It’s natural to want to feed into their energy and make a bad situation even worse. Unfortunately, this can upset your children, too. By staying cool, calm, and collected, you can deescalate an emotional discussion and demonstrate that you have emotional control to your children. Your kids are more likely to look to you than their grandparents. Be the role model you need them to be.
Partake in activities that you like with in-laws
It can be hard to make time for yourself during the holidays, that much is a given. But if you’re putting your needs and wants and the backburner for the sake of your in-laws, you’ll only become more resentful.
You deserve to enjoy yourself during the holidays. That doesn’t mean you should rip the remote out of your father-in-law’s grip to put on your favorite movie. Rather, plan some small indulgences during your visit.
Relying on these small indulgences can also help ease stress when tensions get high. Instead of feeding into negative behaviors with your in-laws:
- Excuse yourself. You might even find that taking a walk or going on a healthy, short hike can relieve tension.
- Take some time to hang out with your children and enjoy the holidays with them. Your children will remember the fun parts of spending time with you more than they will think of a tense moment between you and your in-laws.
- Break out the ice cream for dessert. Luckily, 87% of people have ice cream in their freezer at any given time, making this a realistic luxury, even if you’re traveling away from home.
Know when to leave
You might feel overwhelmed around your in-laws. Even the smallest corrosive comment can cause the flow of conversation to veer off course. But if there’s no hope of repairing that rift before the end of the night, it’s time to leave.
- Talk about this with your partner beforehand. It’s important to communicate that you need to set clear boundaries.
- Consider creating a safe word or a signal to decide when it’s time to leave.
- Take the time to be honest with your children. Explain that you were feeling stressed out and you wanted to stay positive. It’s better to teach your kids that leaving a stressful situation is healthier than staying in a negative one.
Just like up to 60% of employees claim communication is the biggest obstacle to workplace success, the holidays can be derailed by a simple negative comment. It’s important to set a good example for your children. Just like getting your flu shot, your behavior affects your kids’ attitudes towards certain things. It’s been said that the holidays are known to bring out the best in people: prove this to your children, even in the face of stress.