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How to Deal with Questions Your Relatives Ask During the Holidays

The holiday season means a lot to people all over the world. Here in the U.S., it usually means decorating, special food and getting together with family. Being in college and coming home for the holidays usually means that your relatives will ask you a lot of questions, some of which might be repetitive or even slightly annoying to you. Your relatives probably mean well and are simply curious, but this is a phenomenon that occurs all over the country for students coming home.

Question 1: How’s school?


A lot of people become very anxious when a relative asks this question, because we all know college can be very demanding and stressful. We all handle our classes and homework in different ways, but we can all agree that being overwhelmed is often inevitable. A common solution is to say you’re fine, or “fake it ‘til you make it” if you will. To avoid feeling uncomfortable or annoyed by this question, perhaps talk about a class, professor or extracurricular activity that you really love. If you don’t have anything to say about that, then maybe talk about a friend you made, or perhaps how you really like your school’s location. By talking about something you really like, you’ll feel more comfortable answering this question.

Question 2: Are you dating/in a relationship?


Uggghhh. I have been single for several years, and I have been getting this question since the beginning of high school. It’s honestly very annoying, because for one, it’s sexist: girls don’t need a relationship to self-validate, and this is not a topic a relative should bring up––girls should be allowed to bring it up on their own. Nonetheless, it’s still a pretty common question. Whomever asks you this question, depending on your circumstance and preference, the answers I suggest will vary. If you are single, you can simply and honestly say that. You must be confident, though, whether you feel good about it or not, because if you appear disappointed, they’ll want to keep talking about the subject. If you are starting to see someone or are already in a relationship but don’t want to share, then you can respectfully say something like “I’d prefer not to talk about my love life,” and then change the subject. If you are dating someone and you want to talk about them, then go ahead and do that if you like. It’s all up to you.

Question 3: Do you still talk to ______ from elementary/middle/high school?


This can be irritating too, especially when this is a person who you’ve lost contact with or have not been friends with since being home. Maybe you had an argument with this person two years ago and would prefer to forget. I think the best answer to this question is “No, not anymore. I’ve moved on,” or something like that. But if you are still friends with your kindergarten bestie, then go for it. Just like the relationship thing, it all depends on the situation.

Question 4: Did you hear what (insert insanely successful relative’s name here) is doing? (Proceeds to gush about their amazing-ness.)


It’s great to hear that a family member of yours is off practically changing the world, but it’s also competitive and disparaging sometimes as well. Perhaps you just got a good grade on a paper in your literature class, and you felt really confident about it until you heard that your cousin has been traveling the world promoting the new book she wrote. You may instantly feel unaccomplished or undervalued by whomever is talking about this relative. I get it. The holidays are not a time for comparing yourself to others, or to put people on a pedestal; it is a time for unity. But this question, like the others is difficult to escape. It’s harder to respond to, because you don’t want to appear discouraged or annoyed, even if you are. But just like school, you can find something about it you are interested in to make it more positive. You might ask which countries she visited, or what the book is about; or perhaps you can talk about another relative you feel more comfortable with and their successes that may not be as apparent. And then, of course, you can change the subject.


Another solution you can do to distract them from asking such questions is bringing up a memory you have with them. Sometimes I do this around the holidays. You can start a conversation right off the bat about when you went somewhere, or perhaps a funny story from when you and your cousins were little. Families love to reminisce, and this is a great way to talk without feeling uncomfortable about awkward subjects.

Now that you have some ideas for possible answers, I wish you all a beautiful holiday season with your families. Even though relatives can sometimes ask some irritating questions, they’re family, after all, and they love you. You’re sure to have a nice time regardless.

Charlotty Herman is a freshman journalism student at Emerson College. She was an editor on her high school's yearbook staff and over the summer, she had an internship with the Reboot Fellows. As well as journalism, she is passionate about the Spanish language, which she has been taking for seven years now. She loves Boston, and when not in class, she enjoys creative writing, fashion, and drinking coffee.
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