Survival tips for a holiday weekend with your boyfriend's family

Dec 18, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. ET

It’s not always easy to spend the holidays with your guy’s family, especially if you don’t know them very well. If the prospect of a holiday at his parents' place is stressing you out, we have some no-fail strategies that will help ease your anxiety.

meeting his parents

Go with the flow

Any rigid ideas you have about what the holidays should be or what they’re about should be dropped before you get to your boyfriend’s family home. Whatever happens — crazy traditions, even crazier family members, strange food and embarrassing questions — we suggest doing your absolute best to go with the flow and take it all in stride. The more you let go and embrace his family (even if they are wackos), the better time you’ll have and the more his family will warm up to you.

Memorize conversation cues

Getting tongue tied happens to even the chattiest among us, especially if you’re visiting his folks for the first time or you don’t see them often. Avoid awkward silences by memorizing some neutral topics to bring up should you need to use them. Think of movies you’ve watched (or want to see), books you love, hobbies you have and places you’ve been, along with (non-political) news items and questions about their family home and history.

Quiz your guy about his family

Before you arrive, soak up as much info about his family as you can so you’re ready with intelligent questions for his mom about her love of cross-stitch, witty comments about his brother’s recent solo trip across Europe and enthusiastic comments about his dad’s favorite football team. Every little bit you know can help keep conversation flowing and make you feel like part of the family even before you get there.

Stay calm

Things not going so well? Before you freak out and threaten to leave in the middle of the night, take several deep breaths and remind yourself it’s only a few more days. Not everyone is blessed with fabulous potential in-laws, but there’s no point getting even more stressed about your situation. If you need to take a breather, go for a quick jog, offer to pick up coffees for everyone so you can get out of the house, or fake a migraine to get a few hours of peace with your iPad so you can discreetly Skype with your BFF.

Make yourself useful

One of the easiest ways to smooth over any awkwardness, or make the time go faster when you’re bored or wishing you were somewhere else, is to offer to help out. Maybe you can go pick up some missing items at the grocery store, walk the family dog, help tidy up or chop vegetables. The more you’re doing to help, the more his mom will enjoy having you there and the less out of place you’ll feel.

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