We’ve all got one or two. Perhaps it’s a crazy uncle or an annoying sister-in-law. Maybe it’s an overbearing grandparent or out-of-control nephew.
But whatever your family’s trouble spots, there are steps you can take to make sure you have a positive and comfortable family gathering. Your Teen caught up with Irene van der Zande, executive director of KidPower, to find out how.
How to Have a Family Get Together Where Everyone Gets Along
1. Teach social niceties.
Arm your teenagers with the same skills adults use to make nice in social situations. “It can be helpful to teach your teenager some boundary setting techniques,” explains van der Zande.
For example, when a guest asks your teenager a rude or otherwise aggravating question – Did you gain some weight? Why would you major in that? You don’t have a job yet? – teach your teenager to change the subject graciously.
“People will find things to pick on, but you can give your teenager permission to ignore intrusive questions. Tell your kids to smile and say, “I’d rather not talk about that. Let’s talk about . . .” and then redirect to another subject (make sure they’ve come up with a list in advance).
2. Embrace the mixed bag.
“Make a picture for yourself that people are different. We have different values, different political beliefs, and soon. Be accepting of this mixed bag and teach your teenagers to do the same,” explains van der Zande. “It’s not our job to fix each other. Rather our goal should be to have time together when we can and get along as well as we can.”
3. Let teens be teens.
While we all want our teenagers to be polite and present at our gatherings, don’t set the bar too high. “You can’t expect them to be interested in the same things you are. You can expect them to make polite conversation for about an hour or so,” advises van der Zande. “Then allow them to go do their own thing and maybe everyone can come back together for dessert.”