by Julie Snyder
Some families consider holidays just another excuse to get together, eat good food and have a good time.
They've discovered a formula for successful family togetherness without creating too much stress.
If you have a challenging family -- what some might refer to as a dysfunctional family -- read on! See what clever tips we have for you!
Avoid headaches with a game plan for cooking. Better yet, simplify and do as much cooking ahead as possible. You'll have more time to supervise interactions and head off explosions before they, well explode.
Have you invited Aunt Edna and Uncle Jarod? Since they haven't spoken in the last seven years, consider seating them at opposite ends of the table. Better yet, rethink inviting both to the same celebration.
Speaking of guests, most families have a drama queen (or king). You've seen them approach with that gleam in their eye. They've got news that just can't wait! News that will probably ruin another guest's day if not their reputation. Leave them off the guest list if you can. If not, keep them so busy they don't have time for mischief!
Most people's manners improve when outsiders enter the scene. If you can count on your family to put their best feet forward for company, invite some. If not, don't. There are always people who would love a place to go on holidays -- elderly people in the community whose grown children live afar or divorced friends whose kids are with the other parent this year.
It's not your responsibility to play peacemaker for fighting relatives or making sure your sister has the day off from her own kids. Don't play matchmaker either. Remember this is your holiday, too!
Drink water instead of wine. I know Aunt Edna makes you crazy but alcohol intensifies everything making it worse. On second thought, maybe keep that cooking wine close!
Kids love to help, even if it's not really helping. Give them small jobs to do like setting the table or folding napkins. After the meal, while the adults linger at the table, set the kids free. Have the materials for a simple craft project set up and ready to go.
If you own a pet, that's different, but there are always those family members that expect their "pookie" to be treated like a human! Never mind that little Jimmy breaks out in hives or Sara melts into a terrified heap! All they care about is getting puppy slobbery kisses at the dinner table! Don't be shy, discuss it before it becomes an issue!
Every year the holiday gathering starts out smoothly, but the more booze, the less bonding and the more screaming, tears and slammed doors. If this description triggers a nightmarish memory, consider confiscating alcohol at the door and serving festive mocktails instead. In addition to less obnoxious guests, you might get the house to yourselves by midnight!
When all else fails, divide your guest list into two -- people you want to see and people you don't. "Accidentally" typo the addresses on some of the invitations.
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.