15 Essentials for Surviving Awkward Family Gatherings

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

Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.
November 03, 2021

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.

These chill pills (ahem, bath bombs) are just what the doctor ordered after a long day 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.

Buy It
$12.95 (Set of 2)

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.

Buy It

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.

Buy It

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.

Buy It

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.

Buy It

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.

Buy It

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.

Buy It
$129.99

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.

Buy It
$14

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.

Buy It
$28

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 2 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.

Buy It

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.

Buy It
$90

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.

Buy It

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.

Buy It
$19.99 $13
On Sale!

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

Buy It
$20

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.

Buy It

Next Up

12 Holiday Dinnerware Sets for Every Style and Budget

Celebrate the holidays with dinnerware that rises to the occasion.

15 Beautiful Christmas Tree Skirts Under $75

Dress your tree to impress with these festive and budget-friendly tree skirt finds.

12 Adorable Buys to Prove Santa Stopped By

Keep Christmas magic alive for little ones with heartwarming hints that Santa Claus is on his way.

12 Wrapping Papers We Love

Presents with presence from HGTV Magazine!Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.

The Best Holiday Finds From Grandin Road

The new collection is packed with gorgeous decor guaranteed to make spirits bright.

15 Christmas Decorations You Can Buy on Amazon for Less Than $25

Guilt-free holiday decor shopping? We're adding everything to our cart.

Brighten Your Yard With the Best Christmas Inflatables

Deck out your lawn this holiday season with the most fun and sure-to-delight Christmas inflatables.

15 Beautiful Christmas Wreaths for Every Budget

Deck your doors with wreaths of holly.

The Best Christmas Tree Stands for Every Type of Tree

Before you trim the tree, make sure you have one of these sturdy, top-rated stands.

12 Best Holiday Table Runners for Your Festive Gatherings

Set the scene for festive feasting with a spirited holiday table runner.

Go Shopping

Refresh your home with stylish products handpicked by HGTV editors.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.

Related Pages