Survival Tips: Heading Home for the Holidays

For an adult child returning home, the holidays can be fraught with missteps. I admit I've made more than a few myself over the years, but in the process I learned a lot about how to peacefully co-habitate with your own family. In the interest of sparing you some of my own embarrassment, read on to discover what you can do to ensure a happier holiday.

Live like a guest
When you go back home it can be all too easy to revert to bad childhood habits. But even if your room has been maintained exactly like you left it like some kind of living mini-museum to you, it's best to remember you're a guest now and behave accordingly. That means doing all those annoying things your mom used to nag you about without being asked, so remember to turn off the lights, put away your dishes, and don't leave dirty clothes on the floor. If you keep it up, your parents might think you live like that always.

Do do the things you couldn't do in high school
If, like me, you were too much of a Goody Two-Shoes to ever sneak a sip from the liquor cabinet while underage, now you can partake with impunity. If you suffered under an oppressive curfew, now you can stay out as late as you like. (But if you're going to be really late, you should probably call. I mean, don't go crazy here.)

Unpack
This sounds like a no-brainer, but try to put your clothes in drawers and hide the suitcases, even if you're only in town for a short visit. It will make you feel less scattered, and your bedroom will feel more calming. If there isn't drawer space, make sure to at least keep your suitcases closed and zipped when you aren't using them, otherwise there's a distinct possibility that the family dog will dig out your most embarrassing underwear and carry them to your mother-in-law as a trophy.

Schedule time for everybody, including yourself
Before you leave, make a list of everybody you have to visit during the holidays. Be comprehensive — you don't want to forget Great-Aunt Oona — but leave extra room for unexpected visits. While you're at it, make sure to schedule time for yourself. Getting away for a quiet breakfast at your favorite diner or pancake house can help you decompress and leave you better equipped to be the sunny, happy relative everyone's been waiting to see.

Remember your partner
If you're traveling as a couple, make time to do couple things with your partner like going to see a movie or having a nice dinner out of the house. The holidays can be full of drama for everyone, and if you're dealing with family stress, your partner's dealing with in-law stress. If your partner is trying to make a good impression on your parents, help him or her out. You'll appreciate it when your turn comes around.

Remember your friends
You can't pick your relatives, but you can pick your friends. Some of them are probably eager to see you, so check in with your high school buddies on Facebook and let them know when you'll be in town. Everyone's probably swamped with family festivities, so try to schedule your meet-us in advance instead of just setting your status update to, "In town. Anyone want to do anything?" and hoping for the best.

Don't challenge the turkey
If mom's been roasting her Butterball the same way since 1962, your free-range, local, organic bird might encounter some resistance. Test the waters, but be prepared to let go of the main event. Instead, try to tackle the undercard; hors d'oeuvres and appetizers can be a more welcoming place to experiment without stepping on grandma's toes. Who knows, in 50 years your own kids might be saying, "We can't mess with the 13-spice kohlrabi casserole. It's tradition!"

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