15 Essentials for Surviving Awkward Family Gatherings

Hosting family for the holidays? Invest in aromatherapy and stress balls.

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November 09, 2022

It’s true: Family is everything. But sometimes, everything feels like a lot — especially when hosting your beloved cast of characters for Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas sleepovers. Don't worry — we're here to arm you with an arsenal of sanity-sparing essentials to get you through the most awkward, passive-aggressive and inordinately loud family gatherings this holiday season.

Whether hosting a simple dinner or setting up your guest bedroom for a week of holiday fun, we have you covered. Find our must-have items to deescalate your festive family debates and destress after a long, arduous day with your nit-picking mother or opinionated in-laws in the links below.

$30
Sephora

These chill pills (ahem, bath bombs) are just what the doctor ordered after a long day of entertaining. The dreamy formulation features jojoba oil, safflower oil and hemp seed oil to moisturize, calm and detox your skin with each soak. The relaxing bath bombs will wrap your bathroom in notes of jasmine and rose for a true, spa-like experience.

$12.95 (Set of 2)
Amazon

Who needs fizzy alcohol to distract from family tension when you can joyfully squeeze a stress ball under the table instead? If your nosey Aunt Myrtle is coming to dinner, it's better to play it safe and always keep both stress balls in your pockets.

$15
Uncommon Goods

Soothe, relax and distract yourself from the outside chatter with this spa therapy dough. It's like Play-Doh but for adults, meaning it's fancier and features essential oils and aromatherapy scents instead of finger paint and an unsavory mix of cracker crumbs.

$40
Sephora

In the market for a self-care spa treatment to escape the drama between your cousins? There's a bath soak for that! This luxurious “emotional detox” soak is made with Himalayan pink salt and chia seed oil. Pour the magical mix into your tub at the end of the day and take a nice, long dip to leave your skin looking refreshed and your mind at ease. For now, at least.

$50
West Elm

Invest in a charcuterie board. Not only will you enjoy the benefits and beauty of this buy well beyond the holiday season, but it will save you from hungry (read: grumpy) relatives when you need it the most. Because let’s face it: the more time your passive-aggressive aunt spends eating, the less time she spends talking. You’re welcome.

$10.69
Amazon

When you start to question biology and whether you're actually related to some of these people, it's time to pull out this journal. Take a break and flip through to re-center, decompress and connect with the things you’re grateful for.

$56 $39
Blueland

Consider cleaning supplies are your lifeline while hosting your family over the holidays. Put them to use meticulously cleaning your guest room and bathroom before your mother-in-law’s arrival. If she doesn’t encounter a dusty dresser or smudged mirror, she’ll be short on (unsolicited) opinions and cleaning advice. And, when she inevitably decides to shift her judgment from your cleaning regimen to your parenting style, put your cleaning supplies to use in another room for the next 24 hours. You’ll have a sparkling kitchen and one less emotional breakdown than last year. Win-win.

$129.99
Hatch

When you simply need to recharge after a big day of socializing, hit the hay early with the help of the Hatch Restore Sleep Assistant. You’ll appreciate all the high-tech features this gadget offers between holidays, but the best part? It comes with a selection of soothing sounds and lights ideal for drowning out boisterous debates and uninformed political commentary from the living room down the hall.

$14
Target

I think we can all agree that Christmas morning breakfast is much merrier without inquiries about the color, texture, age or odor of your bath linens. Stock your guest bathroom with a set of fresh and fluffy towels to keep your loved ones comfortable, relaxed and most importantly, judgment-free.

$30
Target

Set the tone for tranquility in your primary bedroom or shared family spaces with this ceramic oil diffuser. Will it magically take your Uncle Mike’s inappropriate vocal level down from a level 10 to a level two during your toddler’s nap? Not a chance. But the soothing fragrance and visual may prevent you from losing your sanity when your tot starts wailing from the other room.

$28
Uncommon Goods

Meditate your way out of your family drama and into a bubble of calm with this wishing stone. Use the brush and water to swirl words, drawings or shady messages to your siblings across the room while your parents engage in lively conversations with extended family members.

$90
Food52

The Vinglacé Wine Bottle Chiller will be your saving grace when your uncle has had one too many glasses at your holiday feast. Slip the empty bottle of prosecco from the chiller and replace it with a similar, alcohol-free sparkling cider. He’ll be none the wiser, and you’ll be able to sidestep dicey dinner conversations moving forward.

$49.99 $39.99
Amazon

Fatigued at the mere thought of enduring another conversation with your brother-in-law that consists of his professional achievements, superior wealth and political opinions? Side-step the monologue altogether by pulling the heating pad out of your hall closet, then excuse yourself to the bedroom for the next hour. Or five.

$19.99 $14.99
Amazon

The only thing better than taking a nice, long shower? Taking a nice, long shower that involves pinot grigio within arm's reach.

$20
Amazon

Break out the cocoa and gather 'round the table for a game that promotes pleasant, cozy conversations: no politics, no religion, just warm and fuzzy feelings with friends and family.

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