By Robin Smyth

Is it just me or does the phrase “family get together” bring a bouquet of mixed feelings to everyone? On the upside, there is the bonding and shared memories and laughs, but on the other, well, it’s your crazy, dysfunctional, judgmental, grudge-holding, scrutinizing family. Okay, maybe a tad dramatic, but let’s be honest with each other here, m’k? Do you or do you not have, at the minimum, one family member who has you playing paper-rock-scissors on the DL to determine who gets stuck sitting next to crazy aunt/uncle/cousin so-and-so at dinner?

In any group of people, it’s pretty much impossible to expect everyone to get along, let alone be madly in love with each other. With family, it’s no different. What strategies work best for you when challenged with a cringe-worthy family fete?

If the word “alcohol” crossed your mind just now, consider that while a little drinkie may help ease the pain of family-borne friction, it is also a notorious tongue loosener. So, take my advice and go easy on that box of wine in Mum’s fridge!

Instead, why not try the all-grown-up approach and behave yourself for the semi-annual, three hour time commitment that a family dinner takes. It’s not really necessary to gush over everyone, but pleasantries should be manageable towards even the crustiest of relatives.

I mean, after a quick glass of wine or three obvi– Okay, so forget my no alcohol advice. Clearly, its mandatory to survive certain functions. Just make sure to designate a driver.

When sat next to the notorious family bore at dinner, bring out your A-game of non-stop, senseless prattle and chatter endlessly about nothing at all. Better to be seen as making an effort than waging war for the snorefest of the evening award. Ask about the weather, movies, books, kids, travel, anything! Just participate, please.

What we don’t want happening is having anyone feeling left out and upset. Maybe that shy cousin has social anxiety. Maybe that rigid, uptight Aunt is having a hard time at work. And maybe we should be generous enough in spirit to accept everyone for who they are, show genuine caring and enjoy the moment.

Some of the most awkward moments with family can turn into beloved stories years down the road, so do your best to be kind all the time. You only have one family, so play nice and have fun.

Robin Smyth has contributed to newsletters, business publications, inter-company webpages and blog sites. She has reported on multiple genres engaging a variety of styles and is known for her one draft, no edits style of writing. Follow her on Twitter @RobinDS3.