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Telling The In-Laws You’re Not Coming For Christmas

Suzi Soares
Dec 7, 2020

If wishing you could hire a ghost-writer to answer the thread of text messages about gathering with your family for the holidays is at the top of your Christmas list, you’re not alone. Families everywhere are struggling with if they should gather together for the holidays and if so, how to do it safely. Or perhaps you have already had an internal tug-of-war with your feelings but haven’t officially uttered the words aloud to yourself, let alone communicated your decision to extended family. Consider us your “Elf on the Shelf” arriving in time to help you navigate the mental gymnastics of Reimagining Christmas to help you make the best decision for your family while prioritizing your relationships. 

I’m navigating this unchartered territory as a mom of two college students and one high school student with special needs. I would love nothing more than to give my kids the holiday traditions they have grown to love over the years when everything about this year has been uncertain. If you ask my kids what their favorite thing is about the holidays, they will tell you it’s the time they spend with their cousins and aunts and uncles. As someone who has six siblings who are all married and have children of their own, the holidays have always looked like the opening scene from “Home Alone.” But this year will be different. Let’s dive into how to figure out what’s best for you and your clan.


Step 1: Make a list. Weigh the pros and cons of what is truly best for you and your family (the family who live in your house). Now, if you’re anything like me, you have a running list in your head but it’s amazing what happens when you jot it all down on paper or even on your phone. If you really want to geek out on this list (can you tell I’m a list maker?), you can also prioritize your pros and cons in order of importance. Before long, you will look at the pros of gathering or the cons and know which side is the clear winner. This will require some serious honesty, but the more honest you are, the more this list will stand to support you when sharing your decision with extended family. 

Step 2: Phone a friend. Chances are you have a trusted friend who will listen to your list of pros and cons and would be willing to role-play or just be a support for you after you communicate your decision. Talking it out with a friend will help you feel more prepared to share the news, but if your friend knows you and your family well enough they might have even more insight to add. You can also ask your friend to be ready on standby when you may be feeling worn out after the conversation with your family. I tried this out when we needed to change our Thanksgiving plans and I highly recommend it!

Step 3: Communicate your decision as soon as possible. Just rip that band-aid off and then work on caring for the “wound” without covering it up. After a year like 2020, there’s no place for sugar-coating the hard truth and it will just erode the relationships that mean the most to you. Unless you are gathering as you have in the past, there’s bound to be disappointment. You should plan for it and allow your family the space to process their feelings. Reaffirm your love for them and your desire to Reimagine Christmas when they are ready.

Step 4: Modify traditions. All is not lost. Even though it’s incredibly hard to let go of doing things the way we’ve always done them, it’s not impossible to make them work for you and your family this year. Come up with a list of possible ways to either make your traditions work virtually or hold a brainstorming session online together (stay tuned for our next installment of Reimagine Christmas where we’ll help you plan). You might be surprised what creativity and resourcefulness might birth new traditions and bring comfort to your entire family in a more meaningful way. Chances are the intentionality behind your modified plans will only build your relationships stronger.


Parents... want more resources for you and your family all year long? See all Liquid Family has to offer at LiquidChurch.com/Kids

For more personal reflections from our Reimagine Christmas blog series, check out these articles: