No matter how well our parents raised us, it’s inevitable that we now have different ideas about life – especially when it comes to kids.  Last year, my husband, daughter and I stayed home for Christmas and enjoyed it immensely.  This year we planned to do the same but life had other ideas.  Due to a suddenly sick family member we traveled back to our hometown to relive memories, offer small helps and enjoy our extended family.  We are grateful we made it back and cherished the time with those we love.

Nevertheless, it can be difficult interacting with family when you make different choices than the ones made for you growing up.  Comments, questions and even arguments about routines, bedtimes, food choices, Santa and discipline techniques can threaten to derail even the best family situations.  So what can you do to maximize your time with extended family without minimizing the decisions you’ve made for your immediate one?

1) Know what really matters to you and your spouse.  Some families see bedtimes as non-negotiable but aren’t too concerned if their kiddos get a few extra sweet treats when visiting grandparents.  Clearly communicate what is most important to you (the children may not watch movies without parental approval) and don’t worry about the rest.

2) Know when to explain and when to act.  If Grandma doesn’t understand why your young toddler can’t miss his nap, calmly but firmly explain that without his nap everyone will be miserable for the rest of the day.  But if Grandma can’t take no for an answer or wants to discuss this each day, simply state that nap time is not up for discussion and go put your toddler down.  A quick explanation goes a long way when someone wants to listen but it’s not worth getting into an argument over.  You’re in charge; act on it.

3) Plan down time.  My husband and I don’t get back to see our extended families often and we both have rather large ones.  It’s very tempting to pack every minute full of activities with as many people as we can squeeze in.  Inevitably, this leaves us overtired and with fried nerves.  Soon we start snipping at each other and noticing everyone’s imperfections.  Down time doesn’t happen automatically so be sure to purposefully give yourself time to regroup and refresh so you can enjoy the time with your family instead of wishing you were on your way home.

4) Relax.  Take a deep breath.  It’s simply not possible for everyone to do everything the way you think it should be done or for everything to go exactly how you planned it.  And that’s okay.