For many, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. For others, it’s lonely, sad, or overloaded with activity.
Navigating a busy calendar is stressful in the best of times, but extra taxing when multiple generations gather under one roof. Oftentimes, the relational aspects cause more anxiety than providing food and drinks for the crowd. As Kelly Ripa likes to joke, it can be a time of “blame and hard feelings” if the conversation goes south.
Having just come off a Thanksgiving week with three generations under our roof for four days, I have gathered a few survival tips on the relational aspects that truly help.
- Go into the gathering with the expectation that you’ll enjoy the company around you. Seems so simple, but it makes all the difference. What you expect to experience will often define your experience. If you look for the good, you’ll find it, so look for (and be) the positive.
- The barometer of a room changes when someone starts speaking positively. I saw this several times when one of the younger generation sat next to a grandparent. I heard one say, “I love that about you, Grandma.” Joy and appreciation filled the room.
- Create zones for different activities. During gatherings, we keep most TV viewing confined to our upstairs bonus room. That way, if someone wants to converse, they don’t have to compete with the background noise. (Or annoy those watching a program.) We have a sitting area right off our kitchen and dining room, so that becomes the “visiting” spot. The dining table can be used for crafts or games, and I have a quieter space while in the kitchen.
- Bring out cards or board games. My kids love playing games, especially with their grandparents or us. Games tend to bring out the humorous side of people, so laughter flows more easily. I think it’s one of the best ways to unite multiple generations. The emphasis is on what we can all do together, not on pesky differences.
- Have a few “small talk” questions ready. My mom is an excellent small talker, and I picked up some tips this past week as I listened to her in action. She knew the activities of some of the other folks in the room and made a point of seeking more specifics. Here’s a few examples you can use: What are you studying in your bible group? What techniques are you learning in your art class? What’s your major? Tell me about your family. Have you played much golf lately? Tell me about your recent trip.
- When tensions flare, choose peace. Most family gatherings will have personality differences. Relationship patterns and behaviors have been set for years (and can clash), but you can be the peaceful counterpart by choosing to ignore what’s bothersome. Instead, be an agent of peace. The gathering only lasts a few hours or days, and differences can be neutralized with patience and love. If you are living with the person, you may need a different appraoch, but since it’s likely you’re not, choose to ignore what’s bugging you, and hold a space of grace. You’ll be glad you did.
- Do activities outside the house. The Opryland Resort has more than 2 million twinkling lights this time of year, and everyone in our group loved walking through the Christmas wonderland. (It’s become a yearly tradition.) You may have a similar place near you. Bowling and movies are also great options that all generations enjoy. Leaving the house takes pressure off the hosts, and the change of scenery is often appreciated.
These are the tips that helped us have a wonderful Thanksgiving week. I’d love to hear what yours are. Comment below or on Facebook.
Have a great week full of better thoughts!