Holiday Survival Tactics

Me helping out with Thanksgiving dinner last year at a relative's house

If you’ve read the Holiday Survival Tactics chapter in The Must-Have Mom Manual you already know about the Thanksgiving my brother-in-law told everyone to “Get the bleep out” of his house on Thanksgiving. Although it was rather uncomfortable at the time, we can all laugh about it now. But the truth is, holidays can be stressful. All that family crammed together, trying make all the food come out of the oven or off the stove top at the same time, the cleaning and preparation, well, it can make all those visions of the perfect holiday come unraveled and leave you wanting to tell everyone to get the bleep out too.

Here are a few tips from The Must-Have Mom Manual for making holiday gatherings more enjoyable…or at least tolerable.

1. Simplify the menu.
One year my oven stopped working right before Christmas. We had family coming in town and I had planned a big meal. But guess what? That broken oven turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It gave me the perfect reason to scale back. We had a great meal (all prepared on the stove top and two toaster ovens) and I learned that you don’t need 40 side dishes to make a great holiday dinner. Simplify your menu and you’ll be able to focus on creating a delicious meal with less stress.

2. Communicate with your spouse.
Married couples are typically dealing with two sets of relatives during the holidays. Be sure to discuss ahead of time about what you envision and what really matters to you about the upcoming holiday. Go over plans to make sure you are both on the same page and that you know who is coming when.

3. Ask for help.
If someone offers to bring a dish to the meal, say yes! In fact, it’s okay to even ask them to. “Would you mind bringing a side dish? Everyone loves your broccoli casserole” or “One of your famous chocolate pies would be wonderful at Thanksgiving dinner” is perfectly acceptable. Most people are more than happy to help out — it makes them feel good to contribute to the meal.

4. Avoid touchy subjects.
Around the Thanksgiving table is not the time to bring up politics or Uncle Eddie’s unfortunate stint in rehab or that cousin Jimmy was expelled from school again. Focus on the positive and keep it light.

5. If you can’t prevent conflict…
Avoid it! If you know Aunt Louise and your sister always bicker, try not to have them over at the same time. If you can’t get around it, plan activities that keep them in different parts of the house. If they do start arguing, put in last year’s video of your child’s school Christmas sing-a-long. That’ll teach ’em.

Here are a few other resources to help make Thanksgiving easier:
The One-Armed Cook
Ten Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving crafts for kids
Thanksgiving table setting ideas
Thanksgiving menu ideas
Thanksgiving menu ideas and recipes

Sara Ellington is the author of two books: The Must-Have Mom Manual (Ballantine, 2009) Now available at Target and The Mommy Chronicles (Hay House, 2005) both with Stephanie Triplett.


One thought on “Holiday Survival Tactics

  1. Found you on MBC. Love your blog! Read “Yelling is the New Spanking” I wrote an article for that addresses the same thing called “I scream, you scream, we all scream and no one gives a crap.” I hope you’ll check it out and enjoy. I’ll be following! Sarah @

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