Your Holiday Survival Guide

family-dinner Kamryn Broschinsky

If you’re anything like me, you understand that November is the official beginning of the “holiday season.” People seem to love going home for Thanksgiving. Maybe even more than Christmas, since an abundance of food is more pleasing than a pair of pajamas from your grandma. But either way, home means family — from immediate members who you might see all the time to those you only get to see when there’s a turkey to be carved or a tree to be decorated. Family gatherings are wonderful. They are a great way to reconnect with loved ones you don’t see often. They are perfect for activities like group games and team sports. But when it comes to table-wide conversations, not everyone comes out a winner. So, while I get that it’s hard to tell your mom that you aren’t a big shot yet, or tell your grandma how you aren’t dating anyone — seriously, don’t worry, because I’ve come up with some tips and tricks to properly handle awkward and controversial conversations with your family during the holidays.


This method is simple, yet easily forgotten when you have relatives pining after your attention. Be the adult that you’ve tried so hard to become while away at college and just avoid everyone altogether. After all, back at school, you pay a ridiculous amount of tuition and housing to stay locked away. You may as well keep the trend going at home and this time for a reason. Those who truly wish to see you with good intentions will find you on your terms and they’ll bring a slice of pie with them.


Having a game plan ahead of time can save you unwanted encounters with family you don’t want to deal with. Avoid doors at all cost and know the ins and outs of the kitchen so you can sneak food quickly and stealthily without having to indulge other family members with your company. This can save time and energy with small talk and awkward political conversations. It’s most helpful with a home court advantage, so encourage your parents to host family gatherings.


Be prepared with a list of answers when your auntie starts to ask you about your love life. Nobody said your response has to be truthful. Even pull pictures of attractive suitors from the internet if needed. Make sure you have a great exit line such as, “Mom can’t wash the dishes herself,” after you’ve given your remarkable presentation. Your aunt will love that you’re dating a super model but are still willing to help your mom with the dirty work. Such a star.


If unwanted conversations become inevitable, start using obvious body language to indicate that you no longer want to be engaged in conversation. For example, the “potty dance,” in which you look like you cannot hold it in any longer, will get you out of there really quickly. I’m proud to say I’ve used this tactic more than once. Nothing says, “I need to go,” like making a huge, uncomfortable scene.


If worse comes to worst, look no further than tuning your obnoxious relatives out. Slowly start to gaze into the distance like you normally would in class. Maybe start to close your eyes and take a short nap if needed, but stay propped up so it isn’t too obvious.

Whether these make a difference at your next family encounter to help you avoid family conflict, one thing is for sure. The food will probably make the entire ordeal worth it. If you ask me, food can mend just about anything. So go out and enjoy what you can snag before living off ramen in your dorm room and bring on the holiday festivities.