A Guide To Navigating Holiday Family Dinners

A Guide To Navigating Holiday Family Dinners

In the next month, there will be several family gatherings and celebrations to commemorate the joy of the holiday season. Teenagers must gear up for a long stretch of repetitive conversations and uncomfortable hugs. Here are some tips and tricks for navigating these challenging social scenes.

To begin, your time of arrival can greatly impact your experience from the moment you walk through the door. While some people believe that an early arrival is best, I argue that a later arrival alleviates the stress of initial introductions. The crowd of early arrivers tend to divide into smaller groups. These separated cliques provide the opportunity of an easy entry. After a brief greeting with the host, discreetly slipping into one of the separate groups can be a smooth segway into the social scene. You are not only diverted from excessive amounts of monotonous conversation but spared from the responsibilities of set-up duty.
Helping the host cook and set the table can be a stressful task that a later arrival eliminates. This pre-dinner phase not only requires patience, but enthusiasm as well. Although setting up plates and prepping food might urge feelings of stress and frustration, you must not show it. At this stage of the night, the host is inundated with the responsibilities of hosting, so any sign of discontent could be a contributing factor to additional stress. Cooperation is much needed as everyone prepares for the long night ahead.
The decision to hug or shake is a common obstacle for many. This requires quickly reading subtle social cues and executing what you choose to do in a timely manner. Hugs tend to be welcomed by a majority of relatives.
Statements like, “I’ve known you since you were this tall,” or “you look just like your mother (or father),” infer that they are of familiar relation. These verbal cues are green flags for hug-inclined people. With your more distant relatives that lack that amicable warmth, a hand shake or slight wave will likely feel more comfortable for the both of you. Encounters with intimidating personalities will leave not much reading up to you. Oftentimes it is clear when someone isn’t interested in a hug, a shake or really anything that has to do with you. Since these gatherings are typically annual, remembering who these relatives are can be of use to you in years to come, as you stray away from the colder family members and instead spend time with others of more sincerity.
At a family dinner, you must know how to engage in conversation. Regardless of the topic being talked about, it is important to remain interested, or at least look it. Strong eye contact and excessive smiling indicates a “genuine” interest in one’s story.
As you age, your experience with family dinners and adult parties will expand. The background knowledge you accumulate becomes an advantage as you head into events of similar occasion. A current helpful tip is to begin recognizing what questions might be asked to you, prior to the party. Doing this can help you better prepare for what your answers will be. Questions frequently asked by relatives are, “what are your interests?” or, “do you play any sports?” Utilize the time during the car ride to prepare for how you may respond. This time typically allows for preparation to get your head around who you will see and what you might say. After you respond, it is crucial to re-aim the question back to the person you are conversing with and reciprocate the interest they kindly showed to you. An example of this is “oh, and is it true you have a son graduating as well?” or “I’m doing well but how about you.” This simple act displays immense maturity and intrigue.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to remember the overbearing joy that outweighs the stress of these large group settings. The holidays are a time to reconnect with loved ones and enjoy some delicious holiday food.

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About the Contributor
Sydney Pons, Reporter
Sydney Pons is a sophomore reporter entering her first year on The Yorktown Sentry. She is a passionate writer inspired by her love for creativity. Outside of school, Sydney enjoys playing guitar and listening to a variety of music. Currently, her free time is spent playing on our school's JV volleyball team.

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