Family Gathering Advice: Survival Tips

Surviving family gatherings and how to make the most out of the experience. Information on avoiding conflict, preparing for extended families, and planning events.

If you come from a large extended family the chances are a reunion or get-together is inevitable. It may be a casual picnic, weekend trip, or cruise to the Bahamas. The following are tips on how to survive the time without killing anyone or going insane.

1. Come prepared. Looking in a photo album may help you remember names and faces. It's helpful to know who you are talking to and any pertinent details that might be used in conversation. Approaching your Uncle Jack and asking about his recent surgery is much better than awkwardly standing with a stranger and mumbling something about the weather.

2. Make love not war. Not literally, these are your relations after all. Be safe and assume everyone there is related to you and off limits. That means no flirting with the cute guy at the other table. He's probably a cousin. You don't want to try and explain to your kids why mommy and daddy had the same last name before they got married. No war, no fighting. Negativity quickly brings down the mood and makes others feel uncomfortable.

3. Forgive and forget. You haven't spoken to your cousin Karen since you two were 7 and she broke your doll. It's time to make up. Wipe the slate clean and relieve all the stress of avoiding her all day. However, if you were 32 and she stole your husband, then ignore this advice.

4. Explore your family tree. Now is the time to figure out who all these people are; not later when you're asking about "˜you know the one in the white shirt." See a somewhat familiar face, go up and introduce yourself. They probably don't know you either. You might just find you have some very nice relatives that you would like to keep in contact with between these events.

5. Listen to your elders. Stories that your grandparents never told you are triggered by the sight of people they don't see often. When people gather around to trade tales of family history, join them. You'd be surprised what you learn about people that you've known your whole life.

6. Don't lie. Don't tell your relatives that live far away you're a skilled brain surgeon if you mow lawns for a living. They might surprise you by announcing they bought the house next door and you'll have to parade around in hospital scrubs for the rest of your days.

7. Brace yourself. You know all your families annoying habits--Aunt Lori and her denture puppet, your 15-year old cousin who still needs his mommy to cut his meat for him, and don't forget Uncle Alan who has so many children by different women he named three of them the same name by mistake.

8. Bring a distraction. If your time together is going to last more than one afternoon, bring something to occupy yourself with if you need a break. A novel or crossword puzzle book. Or go for a walk alone. You don't have to spend every moment with the group.

9. Have fun! This isn't work; it's a party. Relax and enjoy yourself. Learn to laugh when your niece throws up all over your new outfit. It's an excuse to buy another one!

10. Life is too short. There is a chance that everyone won't make it back to the next gathering. You shouldn't have to be embarrassed about your behavior should that be the last time you see someone. Apologies are useless when it's too late, so be polite and leave a good impression with everyone.

© High Speed Ventures 2011