Family Reunion Survival Tips

The family reunion is coming. And so are your relatives! While family is something that we all enjoy and cherish, it’s like George Bernard Shaw says,

"When our relatives are at home, we have to think of all their good points or it would be impossible to endure them."

Families often have difficulty finding time to be with one another. It’s a challenge for nuclear families and it’s an even greater problem for extended families. It used to be that cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles grew up close to one another, geographically and emotionally. These days, demanding jobs, hundreds of miles and hectic schedules keep families apart. The annual family reunion is often the only opportunity for everyone to see each other.

But have you ever been to a family reunion?

More often than not,kids are running in and out and everyone is hot, hungry and tired. You're behind whatever schedule may have been planned and patience runs thin. Someone is always sick, lost or confused and there's bound to be at least one strange relative to whom you wish you weren't related. Moments of boredom, stress and anxiety often threaten to destroy the whole notion of family togetherness.

The trick is to balance the guaranteed family reunion chaos with enough positive experiences and tender moments to equal a fond recollection of the event as a whole.

These family reunion survival tips will help create an atmosphere conducive to doing just that. They will help add real meaning to life and build happy memories for the future.

Family Reunion Survival Tips

1. Make the commitment

If your family is important to you, make the commitment to attend the family reunion. Stephen R. Covey would say this is habit #3 for highly effective families - put first things first. "If you really want to prioritize your family, you simply have to plan ahead and be strong." ("The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families," p. 114) Finances, schedules and a myriad of other facts of life can - and will - get in the way. You must be firm in your resolve to attend the reunion.

2. Review ahead of time

kids looking at family tree poster

Reviewing who's who before the reunion will help
kids and adults know where they belong on the family tree.

Before you get to the reunion, take a moment to review the family tree and reunion agenda. Who will be there? How are you related? Review the names and faces of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Where do they currently live and what do they do? Go through the list of scheduled activities with your kids so they are mentally prepared as well. Outline how you expect them to behave and what will be required of them.

3. Go with the flow

All special gatherings come with a fair amount of logistics and your reunion was probably planned by relatives with little or no event expertise. Things will go wrong. However, some individual or group has spent considerable time and energy getting family together and did the best they knew how. When the food runs out, when there aren't enough chairs or when plans change at the last minute, put your best foot forward and go with the flow. Keep in mind that your main focus is simply to be with family.

4. Keep the peace

Just as no person is perfect, neither is any family perfect. There are guaranteed to be some hurt feelings, jealousies and unresolved issues in every family, especially when the whole clan comes together. But the reunion is not the place to nit pick, choose sides or gossip. Avoid sensitive topics in group discussions and use tact when they come up anyway. Ask honest and sincere questions. Seek to understand, rather than judge or criticize. Don't take offense and don't assume you know what others are thinking or feeling. If you have unresolved issues with a particular relative, approach that person directly and in private. Use caution and offer honest feedback. Give others the benefit of the doubt. You never know what your siblings and other relatives are going through.

5. Stay fed and hydrated

The more people there are at the reunion, the bigger the chaos and the less likely meals will be served on time. My husband and I learned from experience that we need to keep a cooler in the car full of water and healthy snacks in case the meal schedule doesn't match our stomach demands. If your kids are picky eaters or have strong food preferences, keep some of their favorite foods on hand as well. Family reunion time is not a time for food battles. Everyone will lose.

6. Find some quiet space

Even if you love big crowds and lots of action, plan to find some alone time to relax and decompress. Multi-day family gatherings often mean you're in a full house, and that you're sharing sleeping, eating and living space 24/7. The kitchen is always full and the bathrooms are always occupied. Not only will you benefit from an occasional break, but your children will, too. Even if it's just for 5 minutes, lay in the shade, take a walk or go for a drive.

7. Fill in the gaps

Go to the reunion prepared with a few easy games, a planned distraction for the kids, conversation starters for adults and questions about your family history. Rather than expecting to be entertained, plan on helping out wherever possible. When the kids start arguing, you'll be able to step in with the distraction of a simple craft or game. When the conversation lulls because the chit chat is finished, find out what super powers everyone wished they had or what your great grandfather liked to do as a child.

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8. Have fun!

Family reunions - planning and participating - can be stressful. But they're worth the effort. Learning to appreciate one another and celebrate together is a rewarding experience. Family reunions can enrich your life by building family unity, establishing family traditions and preserving family heritage. Playing games and having fun together is a great way to build and maintain friendships. Families are forever - so you might as well enjoy their company.

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