If this is not your usual family joy, you are not alone. Photo via Wikimedia Commons If this is not your usual family joy, you are not alone. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Surviving the family during the holidays is, for millions of people worldwide, a real challenge. If you’re one of the people for whom this is the case, you’re not alone. Here’s more reassurance: the stress itself is a “very normal” feeling, says Pamela Regan, a psychology professor at California State University in Los Angeles.

So how does one deal with all the excess baggage that can weigh heavily over the holiday dinner table? Start by understanding what is under your control (you, your thoughts, your reactions) and what isn’t (prying family members, their words, their behavior). The next step is to adopt a witty offense strategy that will make everyone smile and yes, even relax and enjoy themselves.

Dig up embarrassing visual reminders of your family’s not-so-cool moments

Mullets galore. Mullets galore.

The best way to break the ice at the stress-laden family home? Catch your culprits of choice off-guard. Assuming these are family members you spent years growing up with, it’s likely there are some photo albums or old photographs lying around of past family events, vacations and whatnot.

Nice sweater. It compliments your eyes. Nice sweater. It compliments your eyes.

Here’s how this should be played out:

1. Locate 5–10 old photos from a family album. Look for especially quirky, embarrassing photos. Examples include photos of a certain horribly dressed family member, of them stuffing their face into a burger (extra points for a lopsided mouth in mid-chewing action), a visual proof of another family member’s zit-full teenage face — you get the idea.

2. Quickly scan those photographs using a photo scanning app. Free apps are available such as Google’s PhotoScan, the scanning feature in Apple’s Notes, and others. However, if you want to scan more than one photo at a time try the free Photomyne app — its scanning feature can detect, crop and save multiple photos in a single shot.

3. Sit comfortably at the dinner table with your phone within reach and wait for the right moment. Surely it’s only a matter of time until your family’s usual suspect(s) play their predictable annoying number. For best results, wait for the goldilocks conditions of: a fully seated table + annoying remark uttered by the family member in question + your phone in your hand, ready for display.

4. It’s show time! Choose your own introductory words and then, boom! Raise your phone high for everyone to see the visual piece you chose in step 1. Keep in mind that you might need to walk around the table to ensure each guest gets a close-up look at the hard evidence. This is paramount especially when you reach the family member you’re exposing.

5. Laugh, relax and enjoy. Good job. If you followed steps 1–4 your holiday family dinner’s alert level will reduce by half or, if you were particularly successful, eliminated entirely. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Raise a toast to the family gathering and sit down to eat, stress-free.

Must resist Must resist
If I fits, I sits If I fits, I sits

On a more serious note, old family photos can (and should) be a source of family bonding. The approaching holidays are the perfect opportunity to bring everyone together -not just physically, but emotionally. Scan some old photo memories and celebrate the moments that made your family what it is today, warts and all.

Happy holidays!

(Photos source: Header image by Wikimedia Commons via US National Archives and Records Administration, Imgur, AwkwardFamilyPhotos, BuzzFeed)