Here we go! The holiday season starts this week, and that means family time. Not just any family time, mind you, but family time that will include your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law.
Although some of you might enjoy spending time with your in-law, many of you don't. Either way, getting ready to spend the holidays with family can be stressful. How many of you wish, hope or even pray this time will be different with your in-law? You probably are thinking, why can't we, just this once, not have drama, not have the stress, or not experience the tension that just seems to hang in the air.
Holiday time with your mother- or daughter-in-law doesn't have to get the best of you. Shifting the way you see your situation will make it easier for you to shift the emotional feelings that go along with it, and this can make the difference between dread and delight. That might seem a bit extreme, but when you can "lighten" how you perceive things, you'll be able to experience people in a different way. Use these tips to help:
■ Be a team player: If your in-law is coming to your house, make sure you include her in the different things that occurring throughout the day: any food/table preparation, have her bring something she likes to make, ask her questions, compliment her on something, try to make her feel comfortable and welcomed. Treat her as you would a friend attending your family gathering. If you are going to her house for the holiday, ask if she'd like some help. And whether she does or not, stay around and talk with her; again, ask her questions, compliment her, let her know you're interested in her.
■ Don't take things personally: Everyone is more stressed during the holidays, including your in-law. As long as you can feel good about how you act/behave with her — that you treat her with respect and kindness — no matter what — then you can be certain her actions are not about you.
■ Find the humor: Decide to find humor in what your in-law says or does. When you do so you create an emotional distance that helps you take her actions less seriously. And by finding the humor you'll also have some great stories to tell your friends later, about what she did "this" time.
■ Find some "down time" for yourself so you can re-energize and regain your strength. Even just a few minutes by yourself can be just what you need to get your energy back.
■ Establish ground rules in advance: Before arriving at your in-law's house, you and your spouse should have decided how long to stay. Then leave at the predetermined time. If your spouse wants to stay longer, take two cars. Let the family know when you arrive that you will need to leave at that certain time. If you live out of town and can't leave to go back to your home, you and your husband might need to decide to stay in a hotel. Again, you can decide in advance when you want to go back to the hotel or to the place you are staying and then leave at the designated time. By staying at a hotel or with another family member you'll always have a "haven" to return to.
Deanna Brann of Knoxville is a specialist in the field of mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships. She has more than 25 years experience as a clinical psychotherapist and ran her own private practice for more than 18 years. She is the author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law and Mothers-in-Law & Daughters-in-Law Say the Darndest Things.