Family get-togethers can either bring out the best in us—or the worst. Especially when your family just doesn’t get along that well.
My husband always says that I can walk into a room and turn everyone into a friend, regardless of who they are or what they are going through.
Even I have struggled with family get togethers with my own family and my in–laws from time to time.
But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about loving family well, it’s that I can enjoy a family get together despite circumstances or others’ attitudes or behaviors.
I simply choose to think and do things differently.
Here’s a few family get together ideas I’ve learned that’ll help you enjoy your time together—rather than regret it.
How to Enjoy Family Get Togethers
To start, one thing I try to always do first, is to pray. It’s especially important when I’m facing things that are challenging—like a family get together.
I know that if I’m complaining to others more than bringing it to God in prayer—then it really won’t matter what else I do. The family get together will still be hard for me.
Because my heart is hard.
So as an encouragement, and I’m talking to myself on this one too, ask the Lord to bless your time together. It’s like scripture says,
“make your requests known to God.” (Phil. 4:6)
In response to your prayer, scripture promises that your heart will be guarded with peace. (Phil. 4:7)
With that firm foundation of prayer, you can be sure that when you try the following ideas, they’ll really work. Because your heart will be in the right place.
Okay, so now on to the ideas that have worked for me.
1. Treat this family get together like it’s new.
This family get together is new—it’s not last year, or the year before. It’s a fresh start. When I remind myself of this, I get to let go of the past and focus on what good things can happen instead.
2. Tell yourself to greet each person with love in your heart.
Okay, this one can seem a little hokey at first. But, it really works. Before going to the family get together, I think and tell myself to love each person.
Not just with a smile, but genuinely in my heart.
It’s funny because the first time I did this, I was skeptical. But, when I did it, I found that I didn’t get angry or annoyed at all.
You see, you and I both know that we really do love each of those family members—even if they get on our nerves from time to time. But by doing this, it draws that love out.
Try this, I think you’ll be surprised how it works!
3. Treat family get togethers like it was the last one.
Honest, there will never be another gathering like the one you will experience this year. Take for instance that family member who insists on talking about religion and politics.
It can get annoying, but, that family member isn’t going to be around forever. And when they’re gone, things will change.
When that happens you might have to learn how to handle your annoying sister in law instead. Because after that family member’s death, she thinks she has to take charge of planning all the family get togethers.
Thankfully that’s not me, this year anyway.
So instead of getting annoyed in the moment, choose to engage with them in a healthy, non confrontational way.
Here’s what I do.
I lovingly acknowledge their topic and then kindly reply, yeah, I’m not sure about that. Then I redirect the conversation to something that interests them. This actually leads into part of number 4—ask inviting questions.
4. Be a genuine listener at all family get togethers.
Be a genuine listener and ask inviting questions for people to talk about themselves. Each person comes to the party with hardships—whether it’s death, divorce, depression, or just facing the feeling of overwhelm.
By giving them an opportunity to share, you’re letting them know, they are someone who is special. You’re making others feel important and you’re doing so with a genuine heart.
My favorite question to ask is, “What is the next thing that you’re really looking forward to.”
Almost always someone lights up because there is something.
Although, there have been a few times when someone is so discouraged that they honestly aren’t looking forward to anything. Life is just hard for them right now.
When this happens, I get to take the opportunity to encourage them with more questions. Like, “What’s something you enjoy doing that maybe you haven’t done in awhile?”
5. Empathize, but don’t take responsibility.
I naturally empathize with others, but sometimes in the past I used to take on that person’s burden—to the point of feeling responsible.
I would literally feel the weight of what they were going through and it would cause me to feel more anxiety about life.
Finally, I had to realize that I could be empathetic with others, but I needed to literally bring that to God as a prayer request. I then had to leave it with Him trusting that He is in control and has a plan for their life.
6. Make a genuine effort to connect.
You can genuinely connect with family through conversation or just a smile. Or even through something more intentional.
Like this past Thanksgiving, I did something I wouldn’t normally do, but it was intentional. Some of my husband’s family really enjoys playing games together. I do not, but I decided to bring along some activities we could do together.
Being intentional like this really helped all of us to enjoy one another. I had to give directions—and everyone loved it because it was new and fun.
For the record, playing games isn’t all that bad when you’re enjoying time as a family.
Enjoying Family Get Togethers Is a Choice
Now, if you didn’t know that I intentionally do these things before going to a family get together—you might not even be able to tell the difference.
It’s easy for us to interact with friends and acquaintances.
But family dynamics bring on a whole different scenario.
So in the end, I’ve learned that if I do these things it really helps me to enjoy those family get togethers. It all comes down to the fact that I’m responsible for how I feel and think and I can’t be responsible for others.
But, I can also influence things in a way that is positive, encouraging, and it really lets those in my family know that I do love them.
I just might not like them sometimes!
How about you? Do you struggle with family get togethers?