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Holding Icon How To Escape from the In-Laws

How To Escape from the In-Laws

SAS survival expert, John 'Lofty' Wiseman

Winter hazards can take many forms and many a motorist has slipped up as a result of an icy encounter with their mother or father in-law during the festive season.

Here we share some advice on how to safely navigate a Christmas visit from the in-laws!

Clock watching will make the time go very slowly, so use the time to do something productive. Most people claim they never have enough time in the day - so don't waste it. Take the view that you've unexpectedly been given an extra 30 mins, hour etc. and make the most of it.

  • Go with the flow - don't expect the perfect day. Find something to be grateful for, even if it's only another Christmas jumper or pair of socks. Remember, things going wrong often makes the day more memorable.
  • Avoid confrontation - if you find yourself in a confrontational situation keep calm and communicate. Maintain eye contact, but avoid antagonistic glaring and take a more passive stance which will help diffuse the situation.
  • Reduce their ammunition - it may not be easy in the face of their thinly veiled criticism of your cooking/DIY skills, but try flattering them or giving them a compliment (even if you are being sarcastic) and watch them soften.
  • Use distraction - if you're being subjected to a dressing down, keep looking at the person's left ear. It will unnerve them and make them think something is wrong, especially if you start frowning.
  • Turn it into a game - if you think the person will respond positively to some provocative banter, try saying things to deliberately get them embroiled in a debate. Try a change of topic - politics is usually an emotive one!
  • Outgunned - recognise when you're faced with a superior force and if necessary make a tactical retreat to the garage or garden shed.

Survival Tip

When faced with a hostile enemy; stay calm, use distraction techniques and remember, they will go home eventually. (Lofty)

Psychologist's View

Concentrate on your own behaviour which you can change, not your relatives' behaviour which you can't. You'd miss your relatives if they weren't there even if they can be annoying at times so, try to stay calm and make the most of them. (Dr Geoff Rolls)

If you have no safe haven in which to shelter from the turkey, tinsel and tantrums - build one!

  • Shelter - Depending on how long you intend to stay, you can create anything from a simple windbreak to something reminiscent of a rustic holiday home.
  • If you have suitable weatherproof sheeting available, a tepee is extremely easy to erect. Take three or more support poles and tie them at the top where they cross to form a cone shape. Place the covering over the top, making sure you leave a small opening for ventilation. (Wider angles will give a greater area of protection but shed rain less easily).
  • Alternatively consider a lean-to type structure. Erect a horizontal cross piece (ridge) between two trees or on simple tripod supports. If you have no weatherproof sheeting, tie or lean evergreen tree branches (such as conifers) at a 45 degree angle to the cross-piece. Finish the shelter by adding an additional pole across the entrance, approximately 2 feet below the cross bar to provide extra support for the roofing. Build a fire as close to the lean-to entrance as it is safe to do so to provide heat.
  • For blocking a shelter's opening or reflecting heat back from behind a fire, construct a wall by piling sticks between upright poles driven into the ground and if possible tied at the top. Pack them well with earth to improve insulation.
  • If there has been heavy snowfall, a snow trench is a much quicker shelter to construct than trying to build in snow above ground. Mark out an area the size of a sleeping bag and cut out blocks the whole width of the trench to make snow bricks. Dig down to a depth of at least 60cm (2ft). Along the top of the sides of the trench cut a ledge about 15cm (6in wide) and the same deep. Rest the snow bricks on each side of the ledge and lean them in against each other to form a roof.

Winter Survival Guide

Download the complete guide

Winter Survival Guide cover


Amid falling temperatures and rising levels of concern among drivers, Halfords Autocentres has worked with renowned survival expert, former SAS Sergeant Major and author of the best-selling SAS Survival Handbook John 'Lofty' Wiseman to create the ultimate Motoring Survival Guide.

Download the complete guide or read on for more winter survival advice.