Adjust your expectations. Let's be realistic: none of us will have a "perfect" holiday. The turkey might not be done on time, a child might have a grand mal tantrum, and Uncle Toney might show up with his "special friend." If you picture a Hallmark movie going into the holidays this year, you are going to be disappointed. Instead, make room for reality and look for things at each celebration that you can laugh about and be thankful for.
Create a backup plan/code word. Hopefully neither of these will be necessary. But if things get particularly hairy, it can be helpful to have a backup plan in place. One husband I know felt frayed after about six hours of holiday celebration at his in-laws', and his wife knew he needed some "alone time," so she suggested he go get some ice. Now "getting some ice" is his way of taking 20 or 30 minutes to be alone, reset, and come back to the family restored. Marathon holiday weekends can lend themselves to stress in a contained environment, so if you need to, pick a code word that will let your spouse know you need a break. Love your family, but also take care of each other. This isn't about escapism, hiding out for hours at a time, but a chance to recharge and then reconnect.
Deliver your plans with empathy and love to the people who love and raised you and your spouse! Prayerfully consider an honest conversation or letter that could clear up some misunderstandings or standing issues that crop up every year. Decide to expect and accept what the holidays will actually be like, not what you dream they will be like, and put a little plan in place for when things get, um, too "real."
Jenny Schermerhorn is seeking to live an abundant life in motherhood, ministry, and marriage. She's a freelance writer and communications director at her church.