3 Ways to Cope with High Family Expectations


Family can be one of the life’s greatest blessings in the best of times. Sunday dinners, holidays, joint vacations. But family can also be one of the greatest demands on you in life. Sunday dinners, holidays, joint vacations. No, I did not type that same list twice by accident.

It is true that the very same things that we enjoy and look forward to can also be some of the most stressful things we feel obligated to do. Add to the mix in-laws with different backgrounds and zip codes and you can really find yourself in between a rock and a hard place?

So, how do you deal with it? Really carefully! But I think I have a few tips that may help.

1. Respect their traditions when possible

Notice that last part: when possible? Your extended family and in-laws have probably had their own traditions for decades now and it is important that you try to honor them to the best of your ability.

However, you have your own family now and chances are some of your new traditions may conflict with theirs. Blend them when you can, if you want to. But if you have to miss out on the traditional Christmas breakfast because you are doing Santa with your children, bow out gracefully and tell them you will be over later that day.

2. Bite your tongue

As hard as it can be, you really do have to pick your battles when it comes to family. There will be times when Aunt Mae pushes your buttons one too many times, or when your mother-in-law sticks her nose in your business again.

While it is very tempting to put them in their place (and I know you could!), ask yourself if it is worth it. Will anything really change for the better or will speaking your mind just cause more drama?

More: Sh! 9 Little Lies I’ll Tell My Future Child

3. Stick to your guns

Now, yes, you do need to respect traditions and bite your tongue at times – absolutely. However, I think it is equally important to know when to stick to your guns and hold your ground. If you have made important plans for the weekend and all of a sudden your in-laws decide they want to pop in for a visit, ask them if they could reschedule and explain why so they can understand it is nothing personal.

Does your family expect you to come to every function no matter the time or place? Set your boundaries and know that it is okay to respectfully decline an invitation. Hopefully, they will understand too. But if they do not, do not sweat it. You can only control your own actions and reactions.

Have you noticed a common thread in these tips? There is a saying that goes something like, ‘You attract more flies with honey than vinegar.’ Or something like that. The point is, you will probably get much further in life by being kind and respectful than you will by being rude and inconsiderate. Try to handle family demands with grace if at all possible, while keeping your personal life a priority. As with most things in life, it is all about balance.