21 December 2017

Christmas Countdown: Christmas with the family and in-laws - a survival guide

| Rachel Moore
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No more having to deal with the Monster-in-laws, we’ve got you covered with a few handy tips for this years’ Christmas feast.

We’ve started the countdown – only 4 more days to Christmas! Here’s our comprehensive guide on dealing with Christmas in the territory.

Christmas with the family and in-laws – a survival guide.

Single, coupled, tripled, blended, bended; any kind of funky formation your family ties make, chances are you’re torn in a zillion directions on the big day. Christmas Day. Egh. Naturally that dreaded religion topic always slowly creeps its tension tentacles into conversations, turning the mildest mannered folks into mouth-frothing rage monkeys.

Fear not! The RiotACT has a few suggestions on how to keep mellow, motivated, and help ensure you have the truly fabulous day you and your family deserve.

Pack tissues

At all times regardless of who is right or wrong, be humble. Take a deep breath and acknowledge you have the power to walk away from tough conversations. Be mindful that Christmas is supposed to be a joyful celebration!

Check yourself

This should need little to no explanation. If tensions are high, pace your alcohol consumption and keep it to a minimum. There is nothing that will ignite a conversational quickfire than a nip too many of whiskey before you find yourself surrounded by a napalm explosion. Allegedly water was turned into wine, but maybe just leave the alchemy to Jesus and have plain old water.


Unless respectful and productive conversation can be had where even if you disagree both sides remain calm and everyone is kindly listened to, avoid it or change the subject. No one needs a side of Islamophobia or casual racism with their Christmas pudding. See changing the subject directly below.

Change the Subject

After a big meal and a few bevy’s, tensions can rise and accusatory statements made. Play the blank stare game. Rather than bite at the relatives’ jib, be calmer and smarter and instead of answering the heavily baited question, make a random statement question. “Mum / Dad / Sister / Auntie / Brother / Uncle / Dad / Friend… Did you use organic nutmeg and elderflower in the gravy for the turkey? Goodness, it was tasty! Where did you get the recipe?”. The art of distraction might be the best gift you give your whole family this festive season.

A family that plays together, stays together

A great way to interrupt toxic family patterns is to whip out a deck of cards, a bat, ball, kiddy pool for a backyard dip or maybe just a relaxing DVD. Pretty hard to fight if you have a joint focus on fun.
*Please note – never play Monopoly, we all have that one family member who has the suppressed desire of being a real estate mogul and after not passing ‘go’ a few times, will flip the board and accuse everyone of cheating.

Tea and Sympathy – Try and understand the other person’s point of view

Look, no matter the hardships you have faced with your family, it can be resolved if both parties attempt to remain calm. This might mean you have to be the bigger person. As Desmond Tutu famously said, “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”.

Pack a spare

Bring an extra present for those unexpected guests. Even if you don’t like them, nothing is tastier than the look on their face when you drop a packet of Cadburys favourites into their unexpected and non-reciprocal hands. It is also a good one to pull out if you run out of food (said no one ever) or need to change the subject.

Have an exit strategy

If all else fails… have a very cool, calm and collected exit strategy planned. This might even include a fictional dinner you must attend with another family member. Just make sure this fictional dinner guest is not another close family member or they might accidentally and unintentionally rat you out!

Regardless of what your gripes and hang-ups are, your parents/in-laws did something very right. They created and gave life to you or your partner or someone you care for very much. So always try and remember that. You’re pretty darned awesome, right?

If you have any survival tips, we would love to hear what they are!

Tomorrow, The RiotACT brings you: How to deal with the dreaded Santa Clause question.

You might also like to check out 2017 Canberra Christmas market guide.

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