Is it possible to avoid conflict during the Holidays? I think so!

But the time to start thinking about it is now – not when you start threatening your husband with a spontaneous trip to your moms house because you just can’t stand his mom anymore.

All of these strategies, (bathed in prayer and a whole lot of grace and some extra dark chocolate thrown in for good measure,) will help this be the most peaceful holiday season since the time you and your husband got snowed in and couldn’t travel to be with family.

Here are a few tips:

Have the conflict early. Most of the conflict that families experience is because we are trying to avoid conflict early on. We hope that things will “Just work out.” And that everyone will, “Just be cool.” If there is a hard conversation that needs to be had about how your father-in-law talks to your kids, or how much your adult daughter drinks at the family gathering, the time to have those hard conversations is November 5th – not November 27th.

Take the “Plans” approach. My stepdaughter, Amanda, just got engaged this week. We could not be more thrilled and it’s kind of hard to contain our excitement about planning. So when she called me to talk wedding plans, I said, “Hey, if you don’t want to get together and talk weddings, I totally understand. You’ve got a lot of people you’re trying to please.” Then she told me something that made my burst with pride. She said, “Actually, I’m doing the same thing you and dad do. I’m saying, ‘Here are the plans I’ve made. If you’re able to join us for ________, that’s great. If not, we totally understand.’ She said that it’s taken so much of the pressure off of trying to make everyone happy, and giving people a choice.

I love it. She is behaving in a totally healthy way, not giving her control over to other people, and not feeling like she needs to control others either.

Know the Rule of Three. In engineering, there is an old saying; “You can have it better, cheaper, and faster. Pick two out of three.” And it’s true. How could you have a product delivered with better quality, made cheaper, and ahead of schedule? It might be possible, but you’ll kill the engineer in the process.

Roger and I have adopted a similar motto for family celebrations; “You can celebrate on the right day, you can have the whole family together, or you can have people be happy about it. Pick two out of three.”

With blended families and in-law relationships (heck, even if your son is dating a girl!), holidays not only put stress on you and husband, but on your kids as well. They are charged with keeping loyalties, keeping the peace, and keeping things from blowing up.

We realized early on in our marriage that there were two things that were important: Having everyone together, and everyone being as happy (as possible) about it. The date? That really didn’t matter to either of us. Often, we celebrate on a different date. We are having Thanksgiving on the actual day this year, but we are celebrating Christmas on the 26th when all the kids can be here. On the 25th? Church and then jammies all day.

Budget. If money is one of the biggest stressors, then the weeks leading up to Christmas are the Hot Zone times on the calendar for conflict. Come up with your budget now so that everyone’s expectations will line up.

Ask. Ask your family what traditions are important, and which ones have run their course. All the kids love the Starbucks and Christmas light night, but are over the matching pajamas on Christmas morning? Kill the PJs and keep the lights.