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New Mexico State University

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Where Will We Spend the Holidays? Help for Negotiating Family Visits

LAS CRUCES -- Santa's magical ability to visit everyone on Christmas Eve would come in handy for harried families deciding where to spend the holidays.


Negotiating helps when far-apart relatives want to see you on the same day, and the calendar is packed with blended and extended family celebrations.

"The three rules of negotiating family holiday visits are compromise, compromise, compromise," said Diana DelCampo, family life specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.

When faced with holiday schedule conflicts, families can get together to discuss solutions, DelCampo said.

"Explain that grandma in New York wants us to visit for the holidays but so does grandma in Montana," she said. "Then ask for suggestions. Children in particular are very creative and they can come up with good ways to solve the problem."

Another tactic is to have all family members write down how they would like to spend the holidays. Small children can dictate their answers. After each idea is read aloud, families can discuss what to do.

"Remember to reach some agreement by compromising or talking about how you might visit one family this year and another next year," DelCampo said. "Talking about it is very important."

In fact, many families settle their dilemmas by alternating holidays. Some agree to spend every other year with each extended family. Others rotate Thanksgiving and Christmas or Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations.

DelCampo suggests taking pictures and writing down where you spent the holidays. It can help cure "selective amnesia," if grandpa is sure you're supposed to visit this year instead of next, she said.

"Another way that some stepfamilies deal with the holidays is having their own family celebration on another date, such as December 30, instead of December 25," DelCampo said. "That way, you're able to keep existing traditions and start a new one."

For families who are weary of cross-country trips or marathon holiday visits, staying home is an option.

"Some families rush around from city to city or house to house and end up very full, because they've eaten three dinners in one day," she said. "Others are so stressed out they're not very good company."

Inviting family members to your house or a neutral site like a motel or resort is one solution, she said.

Making decisions and setting priorities can help keep the peace, as long as family members remember the art of compromise.

"For example, maybe your spouse is willing to visit your parents if you stay at a hotel," DelCampo said. "You've got to look upon that as fair, because your spouse gets some space and you get to see your parents."