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 Yes, they ARE coming!!!

The holidays are highly anticipated with visits from family near and far.

However, it can be a challenge….ok, even down-right frustrating oftentimes.  T

he weeks of planning, shopping, wrapping, cooking and preparing for a ‘perfect family time’ can sometimes, actually most of the time, turn out a bit different than planned. 

Hopefully this article will help you enjoy and relish your time with family and friends.

We WILL have FUN, and I mean it….Really, what are your expectations?

Do not expect perfection from yourself or your family – it’s not reality, nor will it ever be for anyone, unless they are paid actors with a script.

People are human beings with their own quirks and personalities.

Try to imagine your family as a sit-com and get a laugh of the oddities that will most certainly occur. The occasional criticism, the annoying comments, the disagreements; it’s all just a part of being a family.

Do not ‘get into it’ with them, or fight or be mean-spirited back; just do your best to forgive, and smile. Of course if there is a serious issue, deal with it as an adult, meaning think it through, count to ten, take a long walk and breath deep to avoid lashing out, or saying something you shouldn’t that will damage relationships. This too shall pass and they will go home. Show kindness and respect to everyone, not just those you get along with better, or family members who treat you more kindly and are more considerate. If you work on being calm, happy, loving to all,  you’re giving your best, and that makes all the difference. Don’t over-think or over-prepare. Over-think means to imagine up all kinds of scenarios that might come, or might not. You cannot control everyone or everything – It is just not possible.

DO think of:

  • Have your house clean before they come. Everything will go much smoother, because clutter adds to the chaos.
  • Have extra basic supplies on hand, such as extra toothbrushes (go to the local dollar store and look at the basic toiletries for ideas and for low cost to you).
  • Have your laundry all caught up and put away so that if family needs to wash clothing due to a baby blow-out, a toddler accident, or their own needs, it will be available and you won’t be stressed trying to squeeze your washing in also.
  • Paper plates, paper cups, disposable utensils will be your best friend!  Do not stress over doing all those dishes, this is a holiday for you too.
  • Have snacks on hand that are more healthy such as cheese sticks, crackers, granola bars, fruits, vegetables, bread, peanut butter, etc. for family to snack on when they get hungry. Put them in a ‘free zone’ meaning let them know they can have it whenever they would like and they don’t have to ask permission. This is particularly thoughtful for new in-laws or guests who may feel it would impose on your generosity to ask for food other than meals. But a hungry tummy makes any get together not so fun.
  • Speaking of food, it works well to label ‘do not eat’ in masking tape or on the container if it is an necessity for a certain recipe. There is nothing more uncomfortable than finding out your critical ingredient was eaten, the stores are closed or too far away, or the expense of replacing it would be too much. Embarrassing all around.
  • Consider food allergies. If you are the guest and you have special needs please bring considerate and bring your own food so you are not an inconvenience.  For example if you do not eat meat and only tofu, and you know the hostess/host normally do not have tofu on hand, by all means take it and other specialty expensive or hard to find items.
  • Find out dislikes of certain foods and have a few options, such as peanut butter and bread, cereal, frozen burritos, anything simple they can prepare on their own, while not making more work for you. You may think this is going a bit overboard, but I will give you my example. I will not eat eggs of any type of preparation, so if I had the option of cereal or instant oatmeal for breakfast when eggs were the planned menu, I would really appreciate that host/hostess the mostest!
  • Do not be militant or overbearing, but do set down rules and boundaries that apply to your home.  Make them clear from the get-go.  For example if you prefer people not to smoke in your home, provide ash trays and politely ask if guests would smoke outside.

  So-and-so Drives me crazy! Some members of the family are more social than others;


  • Expect everyone to participate in every single activity being offered, or even to be involved with the family much; that’s just how some people are, but love ‘em just the same.
  • Have an escape plan for yourself and spouse IF it does get a bit crazy, just tell them you have to go make sure all the little fish are still in their proper tanks at the local store.  Or that you need to go help arrange the books at the library from tallest to shortest.  It will give them the heads up you need a break, but with a sense of humor.

My best advice: Do tell your family of the ONE or two (but NO more than that) most important activities, or events to you (and spouse if it applies) that you want everyone involved in, and be clear which one it is.

This could be a family picture, a dinner, a visit to see a relative, anything, but just one or two things and that’s the rule you cannot break.

It is important that adult children have their own traditions to solidify them as a family unit and they may have the other side of the family who would like to see them also.

This makes you happy because your main event will be attended by all, and helps family members know exactly what activity to plan on above all else. Generally they don’t want to disappoint or seem rude, they just may not know what to do, to make you happy during the season.


Do NOT over-prepare:

  • Have food that can be prepared simply and quickly so you can participate in the family time and enjoy it as much as everyone else.
  • Try to have food that if it is not used, it can be stored for a future time.
  • Have things prepared to do, such as games, movies, an outing to see the holiday lights or a local attraction. BUT, do not expect everyone/anyone to do all those things. It is nice to have ideas to vote on, or choose from out of a hat.
  • If you are the one visiting relatives, chip in and help with the cooking and clean up. Do not wait to be asked, PLEASE.
  • If it is your house everyone is at, do not be shy about asking for help. It only makes you feel resentful that you are in the kitchen alone while everyone else vegges in front of the tv.

You know how an animal can sense your nervousness?

Well, people are the same.  

That is why it is essential that you relax, enjoy and savor the time together, whether it is for one hour or a week.

Family will want to be with you, IF you enjoy being with them, and it is the most relaxed environment you can make it.

Families are made up of complicated individuals, yet the holidays can be simple and fun if you work out the details the best you can ahead of time, then sit back and enjoy the wonderful ride it is. 

Just think, after all the festivities, you could possibly write a best seller of all the ‘fun’ – just be sure to change the names.

Copyright Carrie Groneman, A Mothers Shadow, 2019
Recognize a blessing and be a blessing today.  


  • Great advice and must admit that no matter what I do think this time of the year does cause stress though. But still thank you for the gentle reminder to let it go when possible;)

  • Diane Roark says:

    You amaze me at all your thought you put in to making Christmas fun and enjoyable for everyone. I love that we should expect all family to participate in certain things. It is so difficult with everyone’s schedule. I get frustrated with all the cell phones. I have to ban them which does not makes me the party pooper. Do you experience this? My kids are from 12 to 23 and most of them are addicted to social media. Having this blog is not helping me set a good example, but I do not allow social media during any family time.
    Life gets hard. I truly thank you for your advice.

  • Jenny.U says:

    Great ideas. Now if we can just follow them!!

  • Dee says:

    This is a wonderful post, Carrie. We have a large family, adding relatives to the mix can get even more chaotic. Thanks for the great tips! 🙂

  • Kimberly says:

    I’m totally in love with this! Pinned and tweeted. We appreciate you being a part of our party, and I hope to see you on tonight at 7 pm. We love partying with you!
    Happy Monday! Lou Lou Girls

  • Diane Roark says:

    These ideas and tips are so well thought out. I love them all.
    Now I need to get started.

  • Tasha says:

    Carrie, this is an exceptionally helpful post and you covered all bases! I am most definitely an over-thinker at times (I’m working on it) but I try not to have too many family gatherings at our home because I know how stressful it can be. It’s great that you mentioned how everyone is not as social…that is fantastic advice because sometimes people expect everyone to be fully engaged in conversation when you’d rather just sit back and listen/watch what’s going on around you! You have this down to a science!

    • That is a wonderful compliment Tasha. I worked to try to address all the different types of families, personalities and dynamics so my readers could kinda think ahead of who would be coming, as well as their own expectations of what they wanted versus reality of what others had the potential to give back as they prepared for the holidays. So glad you liked it.

  • These are great tips, it’s so easy during this busy time to get on each other’s nerves or infringe on boundaries, etc. But it’s so good to get together so I hope it goes smoothly for you all. I’m sure you are the host with the most!
    We are spending Christmas with just the 4 of us, cozy family time. I’m sure we’ll get on each other’s nerves! LOL The magic of Christmas only goes so far! LOL

    • Thank you Nikki, and I’m in the same boat, we still get on each others nerves, we are family, heehee. I’m so grateful you will have all of your family together, what a blessing and prayers answered. Most of mine will be here too, and luckily there’s skype!

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