Surviving the Holidays with Family

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11 Tips for Putting the FUN Back into DysFUNctional

I'm a lover of traditions around the holidays: cookie baking, music making, present buying and Santa spying. And while I enjoy spending time with family, for many a Norman Rockwell kind of family-warmth-around-the-holiday-table scene isn't the norm. Or, maybe it is, but you simply find the behavior, demands and traditions set by family members annoying or boring. This year, why not choose to embrace the quirkiness and dysfunctions all families possess and have a little fun?

Following are some ideas to get you started. I must admit that I cannot take full credit for all of these. Many of them come from my traditional, yet oftentimes cynical husband. And while there are times I wish he wasn't so "Grinchy," he certainly has made the last 15 years of holiday celebrations more fun.

1. Respond to everything with the word, "Awesome."
It allows you to both express sincere gratitude and say it in your own head in a different way that is truer to what you really feel. "You got me a GoPro? Awesome!" "Cousin Jenny is pregnant again? Awesome!"

2. Drill these five words into your kids' heads: "Thank you. I love it!"
This is a kid's version of No. 1. My kids know that they better thank the gift giver—or else! Make a mental note of the little ones who don't, and vow to buy them each a kitten next year. You're guaranteed the response you're looking for while punishing their parents for not raising them right.


3. Drink a margarita.
¡Feliz Navidad!

4. Text your friends inappropriate Elf on the Shelf photos.
Why should the kids have all the fun? You're doing all the work at night! Your friends won't only get a good laugh, but will thank you for reminding them to move the footless little sleep wrecker.


5. Say "No" to something.
"Can you travel three hours to Uncle Gary's house on Christmas Eve?" "Nooooooo." "Can you watch my dog who pees all over your house during break?" "Nooooooo." Feels good, doesn't it?


6. Drink a bloody Mary.
If it's consumed before 10 a.m., it counts as breakfast.

7. Forget the fancy food.
I used to try to impress with the holiday food I prepared. Then I had kids and realized that everyone else brought that stuff, too, and my kids had nothing to eat. Now I bring hot dog weenies wrapped in crescent rolls pretty much everywhere I go. Take a guess at what's gone first? And it's not only the kids pounding them down.

RS9834 hot dogs

8. Play a drinking game using trigger words.
This has got to be one of my favorites. Think of the words or phrases that pop up continuously in conversation that annoy you and a select group of others. "Grandma's new hip" or "I saw it on Fox News." You get the idea. Early on, agree on the words with your fellow participants and that you'll take a drink every time they're said. Proceed with caution, though, and don't forget No. 11.

9. Make old traditions new again.
Every year my husband's family decorates cookies together—and you don't really have a choice whether you want to participate. So, a few years back, my husband got creative and started decorating cookies based on current events and pop culture. Most everyone participates in this now and strives to produce the best one. Can you guess my pop culture cookie that "broke the internet" in 2014?


10. Binge eat latkes.
Happy Hanukkah!

11. Stop when you've had enough.
I've mentioned a lot about drinking here—and I know that's how many of us get through the holidays with family. But I don't need to tell you how ugly things can get as a result of intoxication. So, set a secret signal (a tickle to the nose or a certain saying) with someone you trust, like your spouse or a loyal cousin. Agree that the signal means to stop drinking immediately and go grab another plate of food.

Written by Jill Carroll, marketing manager for West Michigan Woman.

Photos courtesy of Jill Carroll.


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