17 Tips for Adulting At Your Family Christmas, If You Still Feel Out Of Your Depth
Each year, the holiday season rolls around with the promise of a few days of sweet, sweet vacation — a time to decompress, catch up on sleep, and spend time with family. While there are certainly alternatives to going home for the holidays, making this annual trek is a tradition for many of us. Despite its benefits — the home-cooked meals, the higher thread count sheets, and the attention lavished on us by loved ones — settling into life at home for the holidays can also be an invitation for family members to forget the strides we've made toward becoming full-blown adults.
While it's tempting to fall back into old childhood patterns (personally, I love when my mom makes me hot chocolate and adds the whipped cream without my having to ask), regressing too much — even temporarily — may inspire your family to treat you like it's 2007 all over again. If we want to keep our reputations as independent, self-actualized adults intact, it's important to step up our game a bit this holiday season.
Let's not turn back the clocks on a full year of very adult personal growth — check out these suggestions for proving your grown-up merits at this year's family holiday celebrations.
1. Take an interest in family traditions.
Being a team player is widely considered to be a very adult skill. Maybe cooking isn’t your thing, but if a special meal is key to your fam’s celebrations, it wouldn’t hurt to muster up an hour or two of enthusiasm for what’s happening in the kitchen. If your dad gets excited about a neighborhood Santa appearance on Christmas Eve, bundle up and go check it out — even if it’s been years since you believed in the big guy up North.
2. Design place cards for your family dinner.
We've all ooh-ed and aah-ed over calligraphy and hand lettering on Pinterest, so try your hand at it yourself. Your mom will be totally impressed, plus you can make sure that your extra talkative uncle is seated at the other end of the table. A snapshot of the finished product will also make for a great festive Instagram post later on.
3. If you have family visiting for the celebrations, take charge of airport pick-ups.
It’s a good excuse to step away and catch some air outside the inevitable tension of a packed house. Maybe your dad will even let you borrow his car (honestly, I doubt it)! Plus, being responsible for picking up out-of-town visitors means you get a sneak peek at the gossip that’s bound to come later on.
4. Roll up your sleeves for some good old-fashioned cleaning.
Your family members who are hosting the big holiday gathering have probably not had time to clean up the house — and even if they have, the arrival of hordes of relatives may have ruined their efforts. Offer to pitch in with a little tidying — or better yet, do it without being asked. This might be the perfect opportunity to test out all those cleaning hacks that you've never bothered to use in your own place.
5. Wow your guests with a special seasonal cocktail.
A saucy beverage is likely not top of mind for your holiday hosts, but if you build it, they will come. The knowledge of how to make the perfect red and green cocktail doesn't come to those who haven't gone out to see the world and become adults.
6. Even if it’s painful, set your alarm.
While the holidays can feel like all fun and games to those of us still working on our adulting skills, holiday preparations are often stressful for those who have already mastered them. Making an appearance outside of your childhood bedroom before noon will go a long way toward proving your ability to be a team player. Who wants to depend on mom for a wake-up call?
7. Cool your social media jets.
It never hurts to spend less time on your phone, and maybe this is the perfect time to establish that distance. Other than a meaningful post or two wishing your followers a happy holiday, consider setting aside your commitment to your social feeds. It’s one thing to sit with your elbows on the table, but Snapchatting throughout Christmas dinner? Undeniably rude.
8. Watch your drinking.
It’s not a great look to always be the drunk millennial at a family gathering, so resist the urge to constantly refill your wine glass. Sip your drink more slowly than usual and include water in the boozy rotation. Save your tipsy holiday shenanigans for New Year’s Eve with your friends.
9. Suggest a field trip.
At some point during the holiday weekend, everyone will be grateful for a change of scenery, and you’ll prove your adult street cred by organizing a group activity. Even if your planning takes you only as far as the local movie theater, your proactivity will be much appreciated, and everyone will return home feeling refreshed and ready to continue the celebrations.
10. Volunteer for late night errands.
There’s nothing like a supermarket or mall on the eve of a major holiday to generate some prime people-watching opportunities. Your family will be thrilled to skip the last-minute chaos, and you’ll have made key contributions by picking up ingredients for Christmas dinner or buying a last-minute gift for that second cousin your parents forgot was coming.
11. Take the conversational high road.
Nothing screams “I’m not adulting” like picking a fight with a family member. If you must bring up the election with an uncle who you know is on the opposite end of the political spectrum, be sure to do it calmly and intelligently. And please, please, please don’t regress to ridiculous arguments with your siblings at the dinner table. Sometimes, smiling and nodding is the best route.
12. Don’t show up empty-handed.
Remember the excitement you experienced as a kid when you just knew that a family member was coming over with something fun to share? Turning the tables and becoming that family member is a very adult move. Even if you’re just going back to your family home, crank up the Christmas cheer by bringing a little something extra for your loved ones — a DVD of your new favorite movie for everyone to watch together, your mom’s favorite tea, or a set of matching kitschy PJ’s for the whole fam could all do the trick.
13. Add a new decorative flair.
The trick to suggesting updates to your family’s Christmas routine is adding new decorations without taking the old ones away. As long as you don’t tear down the decor they’ve already assembled, your fam will be grateful for any Pinterest-inspired DIY project you contribute. Lending a hand to help hang any last-minute Christmas lights will also go a long way toward being taken seriously. As a rule, they key to proving you're an adult is to participate and not spectate.
14. Don’t let your parents foot the whole bill.
Contrary to popular opinion, Mom and Dad aren’t the Clauses. The holidays are an expensive time for everyone, but especially for those family members who are hosting and feeding hungry millennials like us. Find opportunities — even small ones — to foot the bill during your visit. Even picking up the tab for seasonal drinks at Starbucks is a sweet, thoughtful gesture.
15. Be ready with some adult talking points.
You shouldn’t feel like you’re heading into a meeting with your boss — it’s the holidays, after all — but don’t take for granted how anxious your family members are to hear about what’s happening in your life. It’s easy to forget the details of your new job when you’re just trying to relax and tune out for a few days, so think ahead of time about what key points are worth sharing. That way, when distant relatives and neighbors start quizzing you about what's new in your life, you'll have a few humble brags in your back pocket.
16. Take invited guests seriously.
Do you really want to introduce someone to your family on a major holiday? Even if your parents have an open door policy for the holidays, think carefully about who you’re inviting to partake in the celebrations. A brand new love interest or polite acquaintance from the office is probably not the ideal guest for a cozy family gathering. For the purposes of adulting, you’re better off with a more serious significant other, a close friend — or no one at all.
17. Be present.
It may be fun to visit with old friends or check out your old stomping grounds while you’re back in your hometown, but don’t be a stranger to your loved ones! Before you make social plans, touch base with your holiday hosts to make sure you won’t be missing out on meaningful family events. Most importantly, when you are home, keep your focus on the people around you. The holiday madness only happens once a year, and you won't regret investing in quality time with your loved ones once you're back in your (adult) routine.
Images: ABC; Giphy (17)