If your family is anything like mine, they are crazy loud, crazy obnoxious, and crazy opinionated. Crazy as all crazy can get. I absolutely wouldn’t change a thing about my loving and outspoken kin, but I’ve learned it’s smart to arrive at any family party caffeinated, witty, and mentally prepared to handle shenanigans.
Whether you have a family where no topic is off-limits or quirky in-laws who think you’re a mediocre addition to the family, stay equipped by checking out these tips on how to maintain your sanity at awkward family parties.
Some family sat in traffic for hours to trek to the party. Others may have come over on the jet stream. Whatever the case may be, everyone made a concerted effort to join in on the festivities and hang with family. So, throw everyone a bone and be civil. Some of your family members may have contrasting views, but your differences don’t need to separate you.
Keep the conversation simple. Greet your family with a smile, ask how they’ve been, laugh at their jokes, and be open to the idea that it’s possible to hold a friendly conversation with someone who worships Trump or believes that vegetables have feelings.
Delegate a Conversation Ringleader
Delegating someone to be the conversation mediator is a great way to keep things civil. The loud teddy bear uncle who can command an audience would be suitable. Even your uber educated aunt who can magically redirect negativity as if she’s dodging a DUI checkpoint would suffice. When the conversation heads towards talks of gay marriage, the Mexico wall, or why your sister isn’t married yet, have an agreed upon word or signal that signifies “convo detour.” If you’re Italian, don’t use hand gestures. You’ll only up the ante.
Just please remember, the people surrounding the dinner table are your family members — not politicians in Washington D.C.
Pump Up the Kindness
We are all going through some kind of shit. Work shit. Marriage shit. Identity crisis shit. Postpartum shit. Baby shit. There is a strong likelihood that almost every person you encounter at your family party is in the midst of a shit storm of sorts. For that reason, you should pump up the kindness.
Be the reason your family member is SO GLAD they forfeited their big plans to binge-watch Game of Thrones to hang with their adoring family.
Bring a Side of Humor
If touchy topics come up, let the “family clown” participating in the conversation help to “keep it light.” Sometimes just throwing in a harmless joke can help prevent conversations from getting too heated. Using humor is particularly important when insults or hurtful words are being exchanged.
Humor is an effective response because: it undermines the insult, it brings the audience (if any) on the side, and it diffuses the tension of the situation.
If the family cornball is nowhere to be found and you find yourself in an awkward conversation that you don’t want to comment on, just laugh your way out of it.
Laughter truly is the best medicine when caught in funky family tension. If you can’t laugh it off, at least shake it off.
Create a Diversion
I know most of us had babies because we love babies, their chunky thighs, toothless grins, and sweet little coos. We also love them because they, along with small furry animals, are the perfect diversion.
If your conversation ringleaders are nowhere in sight, and your relative bombards you with questions about why you aren’t married with 5 children or starts repeating a story you’ve heard at least 20 times, point out how the baby just said, “Shit!” or tell her, “OMG, the dog is eating a tampon!” then jump ship and head to another room.
Remember, your family is everything. They’ve been there from the beginning, seen you grow from a geeky little kid into the amazing person you are today. They’ve seen you at your worst and seen you at your best. No matter your age or what path you are in your life, one of the most important things in the world is family.
Before you shovel that second helping of sliced ham and potato salad on your plate, look around the room and recognize these people loved you still with your oversized glasses, teased bangs and mullet, and they still do.