There’s nothing more fun—or potentially frustrating—than attending a family reunion. Yes, it’s great to catch up with aunts and uncles and other long-lost relatives, not to mention oohing and ahhing over all the cute babies you’re meeting for the first time.
But inevitably there will be times when you’ll contemplate jumping through a window just to get away from those same family members. So here are four tips for surviving family reunions.
1. change the subject
There’s a reason discussing politics and religion are considered a no-no in social settings—they can turn even the best of friends into angry combatants.
So come up with a list of things you’re actually excited to talk to your relatives about—updates on your kids, your favorite new food or vacation destination, or even a funny story about the last reunion. That way you can instantly steer the conversation back to calmer waters when Uncle Larry’s spouting off about this or that again.
2. be a busybody
Remember, the best cure for boredom—and to keep from getting stuck in an uncomfortable conversation (see more on that subject here)—is to stay busy.
Reach out to your relatives beforehand to see if there are any tasks you can take on during the reunion. Think: cooking or cleaning up after meals, shuttling elderly relatives to and from events, or volunteering to sit at the kids’ table during dinner.
That way you’ll get credit for being helpful, while also avoiding awkward situations.
3. plan some alone time
Don’t feel like you have to spend every waking moment with your entire family. Instead, plan an intimate excursion where you can break off from the group and recharge your batteries with just your immediate family, or maybe organize a girls’ lunch with just your favorite cousins.
And don’t be afraid to block out some me time, even if it’s just finding a quiet corner to read a book for an hour or two.
4. go with the flow
Another thing to keep in mind is that this event is not about you. It’s about spending quality time together as a family, and passing on important traditions, stories and family memories to younger generations.
So try to keep that in mind when Grandma Lily tells a story you’ve heard a hundred times, or you’re stuck sleeping on a cot for a week.
After all, no one wants to earn the nickname Auntie Grumpy at a lifetime of future reunions.
Remember to keep it light–family can bring out the best, and worst, in all of us.