Meeting the Parents: How to Make Your First Holiday Visit Stress-Free

For most people, the holiday season means plenty of family time, which can bring laughter and closeness or tension and uneasiness—sometimes both in the span of just one visit. This is especially true if you’re spending the holidays with a significant other and meeting the parents for the first time.

Although it’s bound to happen in most serious relationships, the hectic nature of the holidays can easily compound the first-time jitters: you want to make a great impression, gain their approval, and still manage to enjoy the festivities with your partner. This survival guide will help you navigate the situation without your inner Clark Griswold coming out.     

Make Travel as Easy as Possible

According to a recent holiday analysis, the average person travels around 275 miles during the holidays. Traveling is stressful, from planning the stops on your road trip to making it to your gate on time. Whether you’re driving or flying, make this portion of the trip stress-free so you step off the plane ready to mingle and meet everyone.

The best way to make this happen is to plan ahead. If you’re renting a car, get that taken care of now. If you’re traveling on a plane, get your itinerary memorized so there’s no last-minute surprises. Don’t forget to bring food so no one gets “hangry” and pack headphones so you can tune out the chaos of the airport.

Arrive with a Flexible Attitude

Inflated or unrealistic “expectations breed disappointment” in families, but lowering your demands can “mitigate exasperation,” suggests Erris Langer-Klapper, relationship blogger  for the Huffington Post. While it’s normal to hope for a positive outcome and warm reception, you should also keep in mind the actions of others are outside your control.

Be flexible and adaptable for the duration of your visit to deflect awkward situations or abrasive members of your S.O.’s family. The only attitude you are responsible for is your own and arguments, steeped in deep-seeded family history, is no place for you.

Get Involved in the Preparations

Volunteer for a specific role in the holiday preparations to keep yourself occupied. “In general, people are more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation if they have something to do,” says Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, licensed marriage and family counselor.

Luckily, in a busy holiday household, it won’t be hard to find easy tasks to takeover. Offer to chop the vegetables, baste the turkey, mash the potatoes or set the table before dinner, then pitch in to clean dishes once the meal is over. Your willingness to help out will bode well for making a good impression and it might even give you a chance to strike up a conversation with your significant other’s parents or relatives as you work alongside them.  

Find Downtime for Yourself

The idea of designating alone time is often met with resistance because it can appear selfish or antisocial, especially during this people-oriented time of year. Yet, it’s critical for a stress-free trip:

“When you practice self-care, you’re practicing self-compassion. As you offer compassion to yourself, you can offer compassion to others. During the holidays, we are so quick to give our time and energy that we can end up feeling depleted afterwards,” says Stephanie Harrison, Huffington Post contributor.

Grant yourself permission to withdraw temporarily from the noise and action to re-energize. Practice meditation, read, journal, take a walk and embrace the quiet solitude for a short while.

Plan an Exit Strategy if Needed

This may sound extreme or unnecessary, but it doesn’t mean you need to create a plan to bail early. Rather you “should agree beforehand how long to stay and then leave at the predetermined time,” advises Deanna Brann, in her book Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along with Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law.

Knowing when you plan to depart can give you the patience needed to tolerate a stressful environment. If necessary, you can have a last-minute exit strategy in case those unfamiliar family dynamics prove difficult to handle. Decide this together, before heading inside, so you can both be ready if necessary.

Meet the Parents

The holidays can be stressful and meeting the parents can only add to the chaos—but it doesn’t have to. Use these ideas to alleviate the tension and free yourself up to embrace the seasonal festivities. You might even come to find common ground with your significant other’s family, so remember to keep an open-mind and be ready for anything.

Surviving the Holidays as a Fabulous Singleton

There are certain times of the year when there is more of a focus on whether you’re in a relationship or not. If we can put aside the dreaded Valentine’s day for now, then Christmas has got to be top of the list.

An endless stream of romantic comedies fills the TV schedule, and all of them seem to end with a happily-ever-after-beginning kiss, timed perfectly with the arrival of much-loved snow.

Back in reality, a lot of us are watching the credits roll from our singly occupied bed, wondering why we still haven’t had that perfect movie finish.

The other major influence that brings singleton shame during the holidays, is family. Never-before seen Great Aunts appear as if from nowhere, to question you about the intimate details of your dating life, and inquire about marriage and kids.

As a season known for its vastly available liquor and food, it’s tempting to try to drown the sorrows. However, there is an alternative.

This holiday season, it’s time to embrace and love your single status.

Embrace Your Singleton Status

Unless you’re in a relationship already, it’s highly improbable that you’ll be paired up and madly in love by the time Santa comes a ’jingling. Life just ain’t like the movies, kid.

The worst thing you can do for your love life -and your self-esteem- is go on a mad dash to find ‘the one’ between now and Christmas. The second worst thing you can do is sit around feeling sorry for yourself and lamenting all over everyone else’s joy.

It’s time to pull up your Christmas Stockings, and accept that this holiday season your sleigh will be flying solo.

Don’t Let Them Needle You

No, this isn’t referring to the Christmas tree, but to the (probably) well-meaning others that will be asking more questions than a quiz show host.  Prepare a stock answer before the holiday parties begin, so that you’re prepared. Keep it short and simple, and have a question ready to ask back to move the conversation along. Remember, there’s no shame in being single, no matter what your second-cousin twice removed thinks.

Change the Channel, Flip the Script

You’re the lead in your own Christmas movie and right now it’s not looking like a romance, so it’s time to change your expectations and switch to a different genre. Go ‘action adventure’ and pack and your holiday schedule full of new and exciting activities that won’t require a co-star, like snow sports or sledding.

Maybe you’re feeling more of a ‘Hangover’ vibe and want to get in some quality time with quality people. Find your glitziest outfit, half-drown yourself in glitter and take to the town to make this Christmas the ‘merriest’ one yet.

Whatever way your holiday movie goes, make it a blockbuster.

Want to be the lead in your own romantic movie? Visit dating advice expert Michael Valmont

How to Handle the Stress That Comes With Holiday Dating

Holidays are stressful for almost everyone. However, when you’re with a significant other, the holidays can bring up a lot of questions. New couples may wonder if they should buy a present and long-term couples may begin to feel the heat of more personalized presents (like a ring!).

The dating world is often a muddled mix of rules—both spoken and unspoken. But when gifts are concerned, the situation often turns into a tangled web of frustration, confusion…and sometimes disappointment. During the most festive and wonderful time of the year, those in the midst of a new (or more established) relationship might be stressed out and desperately seeking Santa!

So what do you do when you’re dating during the holidays? For new relationships, should you buy a gift? Are the holidays the time to propose? Or is a holiday proposal insanely cliché? What if you’re dating multiple people and none of them are seemingly permanent partners?

The list of holiday frets and entanglements can go on and on. But, thankfully, the gift-giving situation isn’t a dire one. When handling relationships during the holidays, follow these survival guidelines:

Buying Gifts in a New Relationship

If you’re in a relationship that’s still on the new side, there may be a hesitation to buy a gift. The choice is up to you, but gift-giving may be less of a dilemma if the two of you seem to be heading in the direction of possible exclusivity. If you decide that this partner may be a keeper for a while longer–this doesn’t mean marriage per se—it’s best to select something small…or opt for an experience over a tangible gift. Purchase tickets to an event or concert. Don’t give jewelry in a new relationship…that’s just way too personal. Keep it simple, fun and not too personal. Psychology Today also recommends setting a mutual budget…that way no one goes overboard.

Gift Giving for Multiple Interests

OK…so maybe you’re dating around a lot, and your dating profile is still active. Perhaps no single individual has struck your interest as a long-term possibility. If you’ve only gone on a few dates, don’t worry about buying presents for the holiday. If relationships are kept casual and non-exclusive, a gift shouldn’t be expected.

The Long Term Love…and Gift Pressures

There is an insane pressure during the holidays when you’re in a firmly established long-term relationship. That pressure, of course, is all about a ring. Perhaps the two of you have talked about marriage. Maybe your partner has been hinting for a ring. Don’t ever use the holiday as a do-or-die pressure to get engaged. Choosing to propose, and heading to the altar, is an extremely serious decision. If, however, you are waiting for the right moment to propose, a holiday proposal can be incredibly romantic. According to The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study, December is the most popular month for engagements. And there also are many tips to find affordable rings for your budget. While you may be tempted to drop on bended knee under the tree, you can always propose in a horse drawn carriage in the snow, under the stars at midnight, or even during a romantic holiday dinner.

Plus One?

The holidays also mean holiday parties. So should a new date be your plus one? The answer is based on how you feel about the person. Don’t ever bring a date to a company-hosted gathering whose personality you haven’t quite mastered yet. You don’t want a date that may consume too many libations or embarrass you. For friend-hosted events, the decision whether to take a date is up to you. Obviously, if you already introduced the individual to your close group of friends, then you likely feel comfortable. If, however, you just feel better going solo, then don’t feel pressured to bring a date. You don’t have to rush your plus one.

The holidays add pressure to an already stressful time of year…especially for individuals in relationships. But, really, the holidays don’t have nearly as much influence over our love lives as we assume. Giving gifts in new relationships isn’t and shouldn’t be an expectation. However, for couples who are looking at a possible exclusive relationship, talk about gift exchanges ahead of time and set a budget. As for the ring? Don’t propose unless you’re ready!

Stocking Stuffers for Your Sweetie

So we’ve uncovered the top gift ideas for your Boo with the Ultimate Gift Guide For Bae, but some of you are still left with one last to-do – STOCKING STUFFERS! Don’t worry, you’re in luck, because stocking stuffers are my forte.


All these items are fairly inexpensive but still thoughtful – You will be amazed with what you can get for $15 and under:

Manitea Infuser  – Not only is this little guy the cutest tea infuser ever made, it’s silicone material makes for an easy clean!

Silly Socks – Themed socks for the bacon lover, mustache grower, beer drinker and much more.

7 Year Pen – For the busy worker bee who isn’t taking too much time off this holiday. Now they can write an average of 5.5 feet per day – score!

ColourPop Cosmetics – Your one stop shop for wallet friendly lipsticks. Not sure what colour to get guys? Take a peak in your gf’s makeup bag!

Cute Pocket Mirror – The perfect accessory for every woman on the go.

New Year, New Notebook  – Everyone wants a fresh start to the New Year and it starts with a recycled paper, screen print notebook, does it not?

Apothecary Travel Set – Travel in style with these elegantly designed bottles, jars, and labels.

Slipper Socks – Not quite slippers and not quite socks, but what are they!? Slipper Socks! This hybrid will make for the coziest of Xmas mornings.

Muddler and Mixing Spoon – Mojitos coming right up!

Custom Apron – Bon Appetit

Starbucks Gift Card – We all need to stay warm this winter with a cup of joe.

Scratch and Wins – You never know, it could be your lucky day.

Netflix Membership – Now you can finally chill.

Bath Bomb – Sizzle in the bath with your sweetheart on Xmas Eve.

Personalized Nutella  – Not just any jar of Nutella, for your partner’s sweet tooth, but one with their name on it. Awe, now that’s love.

Massage Candle – Yes that’s right – the warm wax blend is just a few degrees above body temperature so you can pour it on the skin immediately and enjoy.

Beard Oil – The grooming essential for all mustached men.

Vintage Candies – Fun Dip, Baby Bottle Pops, Tart n Tinys, Push Pop, you name it; there’s nothing like taking a trip down memory lane.

Novelty Ice Tray – Whether you’re a cat lover or whiskey connoisseur there is a novelty ice tray made just for you.

Simple Jewelry – Jewelry doesn’t always have to break the bank.

“What I Love About You” Book – You buy the book and fill in the blanks with all the things you love about your Boo. Adorable!


Holiday Shopping For Your New SO Made Easier

Spending the holidays with a new significant other is romantic and exciting. You can make new memories and establish your own holiday traditions. Gift giving in a recently-established relationship, however, is not so simple.

It’s difficult to determine how much to spend and to find a gift that sends the right message—I like you, but I’m not rushing into this. If you’re stressed about gift giving, don’t worry, we have the tips and gift ideas you need to make shopping for your significant other a little bit easier.

Talk About It

While it may be tempting to find a sweet holiday surprise for your new S.O., it can be awkward if one person gives a gift but the other does not. Bring it up casually in conversation, like: “I really love exchanging Christmas gifts and was planning to get you something, is that OK?”

It may seem awkward to bring this up but it’s better to get it out in the open to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Not to mention, you can find out how your new boyfriend or girlfriend feels about holiday shopping, while setting some gift-giving criteria like a pre-determined price range. If he or she isn’t into gift exchanges or is too overwhelmed with holiday shopping, agree to not to do gifts this year or wait for another occasion like a birthday or Valentine’s Day.

Go the DIY Route

Do-it-yourself gifts are smart for new S.O.s because they require thought and effort but can still be inexpensive. For example, you could make a holiday survival kit if your boyfriend or girlfriend is headed home for the holidays. Not feeling inspired? Choose from this list of 20 ideas, put together by Dwelling in Happiness.

If you’re both pretty crafty, challenge each other to come up with the best DIY gift. You can even go to the craft store together and choose your materials for a fun holiday date night; don’t forget the hot coco and holiday movie when you get home.

Remember: Simple Can be Meaningful

Some of the simplest gifts are the most meaningful, especially in a new relationship when you’re learning so much about one another. Here are a few simple ideas that will go a long way:

  • Playlist: Because some ideas never go out of style— this is the digital version of the classic mix tape. Make a compilation of songs you think they’d like, based on what you’ve learned so far. Or, create them a playlist of your all-time favorite songs so they can learn a little more about you while relaxing to good music.
  • Framed photo: If your new S.O. has an especially important family member, consider finding an old photo of them together and framing it. If they’ve lost a parent or grandparent, this can be a touching gift. Better yet, frame a photo of the two of you on your first date, as a way to remember where it all began.
  • A piece of home: If your new boyfriend or girlfriend lives far from home, buy something related to their hometown. Nostalgia goes a long way, even if it’s not a memory the two of you share.

Attend an Event or Plan an Outing

Instead of stressing over what to buy, plan an activity or outing you can both enjoy. If you want to keep it local, check out a calendar of events in your area. There are so many holiday-themed activities and festivals that make the perfect festive date night, like ice skating, Christmas tree lighting, and traditional holiday shows like the Nutcracker.

If you’d prefer to do something that’s just the two of you, plan a mini-getaway instead. According to a 2016 holiday survey, travel is the most popular gift on Americans’ holiday wish lists this year and you don’t have to plan an expensive vacation to take advantage. Take a weekend road trip, plan a picnic, or plan a staycation and buy tickets to see every tourist thing in town.

Cook, Don’t Shop

Between work, family obligations, travel, and shopping, the holidays can be stressful. So instead of shopping, cook—your sweetie will be grateful for a cozy night in, and you can impress him or her with your culinary skills.

Try to cook a meal you think they’d love, based on what you learned about them, or re-create the dinner you had on your first date to add a sentimental touch. Don’t forget to set the scene with holiday candles, nice plates and a good bottle of red wine or champagne.

Turn it Into a Game

If you’ve agreed to exchange gifts, turn it into a fun event rather than a stressful one. Set a price range and time limit, go to your local mall or shopping center, and see what kind of gems you can find within your price range and time limit. Exchange right then and there, or keep them a secret, wrap everything up and exchange later.

If you’re still stumped, check out even more fun gift ideas we have for you. Just remember, you don’t have to spend or plan a lot to give a memorable gift to your new S.O. A simple DIY basket or custom playlist goes a long way in showing that you care.