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Holiday drama no more! How to stay jolly--and sane--around your fam this season.

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School's out, the tree is trimmed and killer prezzies are headed your way. Perfect, right? Well, not always. All that extra QT with the fam can be fab, but a cozy Christmas evening by the fireplace can quickly morph into a night of bickering. Here, we dish on how to deal with all sorts of family drama that you may encounter during the holidays. Consider it our gift to you!

Every holiday season, Pm forced to babysit all the little kids in my family. I just want to be around people my own age. Help!

If wrangling runny-nosed tots makes you wanna scream, flex your negotiation muscles. "Offer your parents a gift of a certain amount of babysitting time. Ask them to give you a gift in return: your own holiday time to spend with friends," says Dr. Deb Castaldo, a family therapist in New Jersey. Impressing them with a professional attitude just may get results.

If there's no way of getting off scot-free, map out your babysitting seshes so they're fun for you, too. Are you the next cake boss? Make a yummy yule log to share. More of a dress-up diva? Raid your closet and style a fashion show. You'll see sitting as play, not work--and your little cousins will think of you as a tres cool Mary Poppins.

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My dad is away on a military tour, and Pm worried the holidays are going to be really sad for my family and me. How can I make it easier?

No doubt, your situation is extra-hard on your emotions. In fact, studies say that kids with a deployed parent are 11 percent more likely to go to the doctor for mental health or behavioral issues. When there's so much cheer and merriment in the air around the holidays, it makes everything that much tougher to deal with.

So what can you do? Start by surrounding yourself with people who know exactly what you're going through, like your family or friends who may also have a parent overseas. (Don't have any buds in the same sitch? Check out groups like Operation: Military Kids or The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs, where you can link up with other military families.) Write your dad letters, grab your sibs and make him a funny video or work on a homemade gift package that will remind him of how much you all love him. You may also want to consider volunteering to help other kids who have parents in the military. "This is the season of giving, so give your time to others. It can really cut down on your own feelings of loneliness and sadness," says Dr. Castaldo.

We're all so busy this time of year that it makes everyone cranky to the point where I have to walk on eggshells. How can I get my fam to chill out?

Between present-buying and party hopping, the holidays are a super stressful time. And when time (and money) get tight, bad moods easily ignite.

Try to keep the peace by helping out. Ask your 'rents if you can do some shopping, wrapping or straightening up. Tell some funny stories (like the time your bro re-enacted the Christmas Story scene by licking a flagpole) or turning on cheery holiday music.

"You can influence the mood of your home for the better more than you think," says Dr. John Carosso, a child psychologist in Pennsylvania. Aim to keep the focus on family fun time. Isn't that what the holidays are about?

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My extended family is so nosy. They're always asking if I have a boyfriend and other personal stuff. How can I get them to mind their own business?

Aunt Edna's demanding you dish the deets of your first kiss? Politely plead the Fifth. "It's your life, so let family in on only what you want to reveal," says Mary Jo Rapini, a psychotherapist in Houston. Know that you can deem some subjects off-limits. Change the topic or wriggle your way out of it by telling her you've gotta help Mom mash the potatoes.

While their questions may make your face turn redder than Rudolph's nose, try not to get too irked. Remember that they love you and just want to know what's going on in your life. In painstaking detail.

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My parents are divorced and the holidays mean I have to shuffle between houses and hang out with people I don't like. It makes me depressed. How can I deal?

Shuttling from Mom's to Dad's is never ideal, especially during the holidays. Who wants to spend this time getting whacked around like a ping-pong ball? The first step is talking to your parents. Let them know that you'd like more (or less) time in each location so you can actually enjoy yourself.

"Find at least one person you feel comfortable with, like a cousin, stepsibling or parent," suggests Dr. Carosso. It'll also help to plan ahead and pack stuff that'll keep you entertained--like some scrapbooking materials or your new iPad so you can play WordMonkey. Who knows, maybe one of your new step-relatives will want to join ya in a game or two. Score!

ILLUSTRATED BY LIZ ADAMS
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Author:Greenback, Laura
Publication:Girls' Life
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2011
Words:871
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