A woman smiling at her in-laws over a holiday dinner.

Holidays and In-Laws: How to Navigate

The holidays are supposed to be warm, fuzzy and full of cheer. When you add in a hectic schedule of traveling and trying to balance each family’s holiday plans, it sometimes turns into a disaster and anything but cheerful. If you are preparing to navigate the holidays with in-laws here are some tips to help you survive.

Make Them Feel Included

Don’t just start bossing people around. Talk to everyone and get opinions about what they want to do. Honor traditions the best you can. If your in-laws have done the same thing for the last 30 years and you want to change it, you are probably going to receive some opposition. If their traditions don’t fit with your family's schedule, offer a new tradition to start and make it meaningful.


Discuss your plans in detail with your partner. Talk about times, schedules, and all of the important stuff. This is where a ton of problems come in. Miscommunications can cause hurt feelings and anger. One good way to make sure you are both on the same page is repeating details to make sure you understand each other. Or if you talk about plans over the phone, send an email confirming the details to make sure you have it correct and in writing so either party can refer back to it.

Forget About Making People Happy

There are some people that just don’t want to be happy. If one of your in-laws is this type of person, know that going in and accept it. Do your best to treat everyone with respect but do not take it personally if that person can’t be pleased.

Respect Others' Differences

All families operate differently. It’s hard to deal with this fact some times, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Respect different traditions and ways of doing things, and it will make it much easier. You can’t change people's opinions or behavior so just try to deal with it the best you can. Be respectful and hold your tongue. Most family drama starts over silly comments or unimportant arguments so just do your best to avoid tense conversations all together. Some of the best advice is to just nod and smile.

Work Together With Your Partner

This is your partner's family so let him or her do some of the work. If there is a sticky situation, ask your spouse for an opinion and even let him or her take over and handle it. But if you ask for your spouse’s help then you have to accept the way he or she handles it.