Dreading the rellies? Christmas can be a minefield when today’s modern – often blended – families are suddenly brought together. But you can survive them with a little forward thinking…
- Make a seating plan. Grannies will like sitting next to their grandchildren and can deal with their runny noses and dodgy eating habits. Second wives can be put at the opposite end of the table to the original spouses, and alcoholic uncles placed away from the wine. (Make a plan even if it’s not your house and enlist an ally to help herd all into position.
- There is a fine art to judging how much alcohol to serve and to whom. As a general rule – for anyone likely to fall asleep, as much as you can get down their necks. Those with grievances to air? Hide the whisky!
- Prime younger members of the family on suitable topics of conversation, and remind them that while they may consider a baah-humbug farting sheep a hilarious centrepiece, Great Aunt Hilda probably won’t.
- Talk of sex, religion and politics can all add spice to the proceedings. Put a ban, instead, on discussion of parenting skills, divorce rates or anything that happened “in my day…”
- Invite non-family too. Relatives will behave better, and may offer polite chit-chat instead of bickering over the remote control and dragging up what Uncle Roger did in The Great Christmas Row of 1996.
- Prepare a fund of “rescue subjects” to distract and divert if tensions are rising. New babies, holiday plans and the short-comings of other relatives not present, will usually go down well.
- Serve all food in quantity. It is harder to be argumentative when stuffed to the gills.
- If you have a cream sofa – cover it.
- If all else fails, whip out the Trivial Pursuit.
- Try deep breathing, mindfulness techniques, meditation or yoga. Repeat to yourself: “I am relaxed, I am calm, I am enjoying this.” Then hit the gin early, grin a lot and remember in a few hours it will all be over.
Extracted from the back of Mum in the Middle (HarperImpulse) by Jane Wenham-Jones.
(If you now feel so moved to treat yourself – or one of those relatives – to a copy you can download or get the paperback here.) Happy Christmas!