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Surviving the in-laws: A guide to handling the family at Christmas

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Time is running out and the drums of war are beating.

It’s only a couple of days until Christmas and you’ve invited everyone from crazy aunty Janice to the family members you actually like.

You’re all set for

a spirited celebration of family, friendship and every feud that ever developed over the past 100 years.

Aunty Janice will attempt to avenge what great Uncle Greg said to cousin Ellen (rest her soul) at Christmas dinner in 1946 and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to stop it.

You just have to make do.

You could always learn from your mistakes and stop inviting sworn enemies to celebrate their relationships every year but let’s face it, that’s not going to happen.

So here are a couple of quick ideas to keep a lid on it all.

Plan ahead

As we’ve already discussed you can try to head it all off at the pass with clever seating plans but there are still key flashpoints around the kitchen and the barbecue.

Your planning will have identified the key players though, so you may want to make sure Uncle Paul and Aunty Sharon’s pre-lunch work spaces are separated by a few solid walls.

Identify allies

Most families will have a corps of people – often male but not exclusively – between the ages of about 20 and 35 who just wish Christmas would die and stay dead. These people are key to peaceful relations throughout the day.

They may seem on edge and unhappy to be there but that’s just because they can’t stand the idea of doing this dance yet again.

With some skilful diplomacy, you can spread some of this crowd throughout the group to neutralise some of the more explosive characters.

WARNING: Do not under any circumstances let anyone from this group interact with anyone who is likely to talk about “the true spirit of Christmas”.

Zone defence

Anything incident involving children owned by more than one parent is going to cause tension as well.

The kids will be running free like maniacs and sooner or later little Jaxsen is going to beat Tiffany-Dehkota at laser tag one too many times.

Someone in the group is good with kids and will be useful in keeping these minor clashes from escalating. Make sure you find someone who’s historically neutral in their relationships with the various warring parties.

WARNING: Pick someone who actually likes kids. This isn’t an opportunity for a detached uncle to spend more time with his nieces and nephews. The reason he’s detached is because children frustrate and confuse him.

Stay positive

We haven’t painted a rosie picture of Christmas here, but we all know there’s a lot of good that comes out of it and at the end of the day most family members do love each other.

Keep reminding yourself of this because a meltdown on your part – no matter how justified – throws everything into chaos. There’s no coming back once the host joins the frey, so make sure you remain the serence image of peace and stability throughout.