If we’re lucky, loving family gatherings are a regular part the holiday season. But family dynamics are complicated and there are many factors at play during the holidays. Hectic travel, overnight guests, different lifestyles, strong personalities, and a lot of history can have even the happiest of extended families dealing with stress and conflict intruding on the festivities.

With a little planning, perspective, and self-awareness, however, it’s possible to keep tension and arguments to a minimum.

  1. Celebrate on Your Schedule

Traffic, delays, and over crowded airports are a recipe for tired and cranky visitors. If you can, do your best to travel on off-peak days and encourage your family members to do the same.

If there’s a lot of travel or competing gatherings involved, it may even be time to consider celebrating on a different day. The whole point is to gather and enjoy each other’s company. If it’s easier for everyone to do that before or after the official date, then forget what the calendar says and revel in the extra relaxation.

  1. Leave Wanting More

No one wants to overstay their welcome or feel like they’re counting the minutes until visitors leave. Be honest and realistic with how long a visit should last. A little uncomfortable negotiating upfront will be rewarded when everyone’s sad they didn’t get more time together than the opposite.

  1. Stand Your Ground, Selectively

Conflicting opinions are an unavoidable part of family, and sometimes parents, aunts and uncles, and older siblings can cross a line by sharing theirs or ignoring yours. Only you can decide where that line is, but a good rule of thumb is to maintain control of issues that pertain to your immediate family’s health, safety and values. Depending on your children and parenting style, you may also need to be firm about enforcing a relatively normal schedule to help minimize the stress your kids feel.

Beyond that, however, it’s important to realize the value that everyone places on their own opinions. When you’re standing your ground, try to do so in a way that is still polite and respectful. When it comes to other issues, find ways to compromise or let others do things their way. It will show that you value their contributions and your relationship.

  1. Settle Issues Beforehand

Disagreements happen. If there’s an issue already in the air, go out of your way to resolve it before any family gatherings. It’s much more productive, and less embarrassing, to handle the situation one-on-one than to have it come to a head in front of your guests and taint memories of the holiday.

  1. Maintain Relationships All Year Long

We all have way too much competing for our attention these days. That makes it all too easy to go for months without connecting with family members, especially those who live far away. Keeping in touch in between the holidays is the best way to keep your relationships strong and avoid hurt feelings building up. A few minutes for a call, an occasional email, or even just random texting here and there can go a long way and will provide dividends throughout life, not just at the next family gathering.

Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!

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Directions from Downtown

Go south (away from the river) on State Street.
Enter the Route 1 Rotary.
Take the first exit right out of the rotary.
You will see the Professional Building on the right.
Take an almost immediate right onto Cherry Street.
Immediately turn left into the parking lot.

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Directions from Salisbury or Seabrook

Take Route 1 across the bridge over the Merrimack River. Continue on Route 1 until you enter the rotary. Go around the rotary and take the third exit to the right so that you are going back Route 1. In the opposite direction from when you entered the rotary. You will see the Professional Building on the right. Take an almost immediate right onto Cherry Street.  Immediately turn left into the parking lot.

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Directions from the South

Go north on I-95. Take the SCOTLAND RD exit- EXIT 56- toward NEWBURY/NEWBURYPORT. Bear right at the bottom of the ramp. In about 2.5 miles turn right onto Parker Street (1st light.) In about 1/2 mile, the road ends at route 1 and you must make a right. Enter the rotary, go all the way around until you are heading back the direction you entered the rotary from. You will see the building on the right. Take the right onto Cherry Street and an immediate left into the parking lot.

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Directions from Amesbury/495

From 495 Take the RT-110 exit(EXIT 55) - toward I-95. Merge onto MA-110 E, and continue straight on 110 for about 2.9 miles and take a right onto US Route 1. Follow Route 1 for about 3 miles until you get to the rotary. When you enter the rotary, go all the way around and proceed back up Route 1 in the opposite direction that you entered it. Take the first right onto Cherry Street and take an immediate left into our parking lot.

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