How To Make Family Holidays Great Instead Of Awful

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Just in time for the holidays, author and relationship safety expert, Irene van der Zande, offers advice on how to make family gatherings "great instead of awful.”

Embrace the mixed bag (that is your family) and enjoy rather than dread getting everyone together.

Just in time for the holiday season, relationship safety expert and author, Irene van der Zande, offers advice on “how to make family gatherings great instead of awful.”

In her roles as founder and executive director of, a nonprofit that provides personal safety and healthy relationship-building skills education, van der Zande has encountered many people over the past two decades who were looking for advice about how to avoid conflict at family reunions and holiday get-togethers.

“Some families are easy. Everyone finds it easy to get along, easy to have fun doing things together, and easy to work out problems,” says van der Zande. “Unfortunately, I don't know any families like that, but theoretically, they must exist.”

Van der Zande is working on a new book, slated for release in 2014, about facilitating healthy group dynamics. She decided to publish a preview chapter on the free online library about “making family gatherings great” in time for this year’s holiday season.

“My goal for releasing this chapter now, instead of waiting for the release of the new book, is to help people make this year’s family holidays be a time to have fun, build and strengthen relationships and keep a healthy network of support for family members who may be scattered far and wide.”

Readers will find humor and practicality in the descriptions of ways to head-off various conflicts with family members and friends. Van der Zande offers both proactive planning and in-the-moment intervention strategies and skills (including short scripts of what to say) to diffuse problems and help everyone enjoy themselves at family reunions.

Written with van der Zande’s engaging and personable style, the chapter can help both the hosts and the guests of a family gathering find ways to “embrace the mixed bag and enjoy rather than dread getting everyone together.”

“We live in a sometimes large and lonely world,” says van der Zande. “So it’s important to do what we can to make family gatherings great.”

About Irene van der Zande
Irene van der Zande has been featured as a personal safety expert by USA Today, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal and is the author of the Relationship Safety Skills: Domestic, Dating and Interpersonal Violence Prevention Handbook and of the Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People. She is also the founder and executive director of, an international non-profit leader in personal safety and confidence-building skills education, which has helped to protect more than two million people from abuse, bullying and other violence since 1989. Contact "safety (at)" for more information or to interview Irene van der Zande.

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Beth McGreevy
Malachite Strategies LLC
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