Many of us embark upon the the eternal quest to make sure all of our siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and in-laws get along during the holidays. While hope for a peaceful family get-together always springs eternal, it sadly isn't always a realistic goal. Whether or not a circle of friends or an extended family can actually get along should not be seen as a measuring stick for your own good intentions. There are a number of things you can do to help your loved ones avoid fighting during the holidays, but the remainder of the year is up to them.
One important point is to keep your holiday expectations realistic and flexible. While it would be nice to have the entire extended family under one roof for the holidays, you must accept the fact that it may not happen. If you can accept a less idealized plan for the upcoming holidays, then your positivity may rub off on the family members in attendance. When people can pick up on each other's positive attitudes, they often get along much better. It may be better to have a smaller group comprised of people who interact well together than a larger group of people who don't.
If your goal is to see contentious relatives avoid fighting, then you may have to play the role of negotiator or mediator. You may have to speak with each relative separately and try to get at the root cause of their conflict. Even an armed truce or an agreement to disagree may be enough to help sparring relatives get along during the holidays. If you can manage to get the two parties to speak face-to-face before the holiday reunion, it may clear the air even more. No one enjoys feeling ambushed during a holiday get-together.
You must understand that the holiday season can be a mixed bag of emotions for everyone. Some family members or friends may prefer to remain alone during the holidays for their own personal reasons. If you really want people to get along, it pays to respect their wishes and not pressure them into uncomfortable social situations. If a family member is not able to attend a family event in person, other family members can still arrange for a family conference call, a live web chat, or a videotape of the event. It may be better to allow individuals to make their own decisions about holiday participation.
If you have a houseful of relatives and you fear the worst, avoid the dreaded downtime. Family members may already be stressed out from their own holiday rituals, so it pays to keep things light and friendly during family get-togethers. Conflicts often arise out of collective boredom, so plan a series of group activities. After an early meal, the entire family could go to a movie or other local attraction. Some may want to volunteer a few hours at a charity food service or go on a shopping trip. At night, everyone could look at neighborhood Christmas lights and displays. The trick is to keep moving and keep talking.
Even if you are not planning an extended family event, it is still important that your immediate family get along during the holidays. Keep in mind that children may be working off sleep debts, so allow them time to rest and relax. Hold off on family trips or all-day entertainment until everyone in the family has had time to adjust to a vacation mindset. You may think of it as a trip to Grandma's house, but your spouse or children may see it as 12 hours trapped in a car unless they get enough rest beforehand.
Above all else, if you want to have your friends, co-workers and family get along, be sure to lead by example. Once people see you avoid petty conflicts at work or show honest affection towards your family, they are more likely to follow your lead.