The holidays can be a magical time, bustling with all sorts of fun activities. Even with all the fun, managing family dynamics can be difficult. Some family dynamics can run smoothly, and some can cause friction and frustration for those involved.


Marriages come with the blending of two families and sometimes it can be difficult to celebrate an important holiday with a family that has different traditions from your own. It can also be challenging if relationships with in-laws aren’t particularly strong.


Here are some tips to keeping it positive and enjoying your holiday, regardless of who you are spending it with:

  • Set expectations, far in advance. It is important to set boundaries that work for you. When it comes to scheduling holiday time together, this should be discussed and determined ideally long before, like in September. Make sure that clear expectations are set in advance so there are no feelings of guilt or resentment at the time of the holiday.
  • Take care of the basics. During the holidays we are often pulled in many directions. It is especially important to take care of yourself when you are in more challenging environments. Set yourself up for success by making sure that sleeping arrangements will give you quality sleep. Discuss meals and determine schedules in advance. We all know that when we are tired and or hungry, our patience is the first thing to go. This is why it is important to take care of the basics.
  • Express your values. The holidays can be special to people for different reasons. For a lot of people, there are certain traditions that need to happen for it to feel like the holidays. Talk to your spouse or partner about what is important for you when celebrating the holidays and discuss ways to make it happen if you are celebrating with their family.
  • Have your spouse or partner advocate for you. It is generally best to let each person handle any difficult conversations with their own family of origin. This helps pave the way for smoother communication and offers the chance to present a united front.
  • Try to look at different perspectives. Because it can be very easy to concentrate on all of the things that irritate you, it is important to remind yourself why you are spending time with your in-laws. These people loom large in the life of the person you are married to, someone you care about. Try to remember that and think of your partner’s needs and desires; work to find ways to enjoy and appreciate those they care about.
  • Stay grateful. Often, we concentrate on what is not going right. It can be very helpful to remind yourself about what is going right. There are people around you who want to spend time with you and care about celebrating the holidays with you. That is something to be grateful for. That is a great start; now see what else you can find to be grateful for.

As much as being around others can cause friction, it can also create growth. It can help you see others and yourself through a different lens. It can also introduce you to new things, whether it be uncovering traditions, a new meal or a different board game. These are small steps that help us grow as a family and as people.


This holiday season, remember to take care of yourself, identify your values and be mindful of your perspective.


Note: This content, written by Robyn Martin, MS, LPC-S, originally appeared on Mind Matters from Menninger, our blog on