Years ago I began to notice that friends and clients were edgier, more whiny and generally more demanding during the holiday season. At first, I thought this just coincided with all the cliches of the holidays being stressful and reawakening ghosts of long-ago family holidays, but I have come to believe that the problem is often not so much the memories of family holidays as it is the reality of family holidays. Most of these people were still at the age where they were “going home” to celebrate with their families. The question is, how do you spend time with your family without regressing to thirteen years old?

One useful technique is to pretend that you are a guest and that they are someone else’s family.  Just watch the interactions around you and try to see what the games really are. Yes, there are always games going on, and they aren’t all bad, the trick is to not take them personally. You could also play “consultant” and analyze (just in your head, not out loud) how the family would look to an outsider. Every family has its own level on the continuum of function to dysfunction, so try to see what is working, as well as what isn’t.   The third technique is to approach the gathering as a game. How would you act if you had no other agenda than to be happy? Don’t try to create the perfect holiday, don’t try to train your family or to be accepted by them, listen, rather than arguing, teach by your peaceful example, rather than preaching, laugh and ignore teasing, rather than frowning or pointing out faults, never say “always” or “never” and have fun to the best of your ability.

Click for more suggestions from Livestrong.

Make some holiday rituals of your own.

What have you found that works or doesn’t work for you?