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If You Dread Holiday Family Visits, Try “Happy Holiday Bingo” to Stay Sane

For many of us, the holiday season involves spending time with one or more family members who — how do I say this politely — drive us batty. Their predictable habits, the repetitive conversations, and foreseeable insults reliably replay along with other holiday jingles. However, to spend time with those we love, enduring these aggravating personalities often seems inevitable.

The good news is that just because you spend time with someone you find annoying does not mean that you need to get annoyed. You just need to get a new perspective. As long as the behaviors are not part of a larger pattern of emotional or psychological abuse and reasonably fit within the normal range of irritating behavior, you have the option to have some fun using crazy wisdom.

Crazy wisdom involves using humor to play with opposites and logic to cut through assumptions that keep us stuck, enabling us to break loose from habitual ways of thinking. In the case of holiday family visits, crazy wisdom asks, “Who is crazier? Your crazy relatives or you for hoping that they will be different?” 

Happy Holiday Bingo involves mindfully accepting that your reliably kooky kinfolk are most likely going to do the same kooky things this year that they have done every other year. You would be craziest one of all to expect anything different. Ideally, you can compassionately accept their foibles, understanding that each of us has quirks and that you likely annoy them as much as they annoy you.

By predicting their behavior, you won’t be taken off guard when plans are derailed, insults slip out, and drama plays out. Better yet, you will be able to laugh along and actually enjoy the predictable folly. 

How to Play

Ideally, find an ally who is annoyed by the same people you are, such as your partner, a sibling, or cousin. Then make a list of the annoying behaviors that can easily be predicted at the next holiday gathering, such as grandpa telling the same old story, a downward comparison with a sibling, or an argument over politics. If making the list elicits more anger than laughter, you may need to work through those feelings before trying this exercise. But if you find you have the giggles, it is time to transfer the list to a few bingo cards, which typically have room for 24 items. Then, once the party begins, play to see who is the first to get five in a row.

This shift in focus reframes the irritating behaviors into something positive in the game, allowing you to relax and not engage in your typical reactions. You should find you can actually laugh along with the predictable foibles. To add to the fun, you may want to prepare a prize for the winner. If you don’t have willing accomplices, make a bet with yourself on how many zany behaviors will happen per hour or by the end of the day, and give yourself a favorite reward if you guessed correctly. 

Here is an example:

Acceptance Is the Goal

Although it hopefully adds some sparkle to your holiday celebrations, Happy Holiday Family Bingo should above all help you accept the things you cannot change in those you love. No one is perfect, and even those relatives with the best of intentions can get on your nerves. In a world that continually pressures us to be better and improve, perhaps the greatest gift of all this season is to accept yourself and those you love.

If You Dread Holiday Family Visits, Try “Happy Holiday Bingo” to Stay Sane


Diane R. Gehart, Ph.D.

Diane R. Gehart, Ph.D., is an author, an award-winning professor of Counseling and Family Therapy at California State University, Northridge, and a practicing psychotherapist. Her new book is Mindfulness for Chocolate Lovers: A Lighthearted Way to Stress Less and Savor More Each Day (Rowman & Littlefield, Sept. 15, 2019). Learn more at DianeGehart.com and www.mindfulnessforchocolatelovers.com.


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APA Reference
Gehart, D. (2019). If You Dread Holiday Family Visits, Try “Happy Holiday Bingo” to Stay Sane. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/if-you-dread-holiday-family-visits-try-happy-holiday-bingo-to-stay-sane/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 25 Nov 2019 (Originally: 26 Nov 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 25 Nov 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.