The holidays are coming up fast, which means travel, festive meals and quality time with the family. Which is no problem if it’s your family. You’re used to all those weird relatives. But what if you’re headed to your hot new girlfriend’s house for the break?

Sure, you can hide in the den watching football with her drunk uncles, laying low till it’s safe to pop your head out from under Grandma’s hand-knit afghan, but there’s one major flaw in that game plan. Namely…

If you don’t win over her family, you’re toast.

Charm everyone’s pants off, and not only will it turn her on to the point she’ll finally try on her old cheerleading uniform for you, but they’ll actually have your back when you screw up and she wants to kick you to the curb.

It’s true. Every girl takes seriously how you fit in with her relatives. If they’re lukewarm, that’s a major strike against you. And if they straight up dislike you, that can be a deal breaker because of the added stress in her life, for the rest of her life.

On the flip side, charm everyone’s pants off, and not only will it turn her on to the point she’ll finally try on her old cheerleading uniform for you, but they’ll actually have your back when you screw up and she wants to kick you to the curb. Double bonus!

So, how do you schmooze your way to the head of the table? Follow these tips!

1. Storm the Beaches
Find the crankiest, most bitter old man in the place, usually her dad’s dad or worse, her mom’s dad (who’s likely still ranting about the schmuck his own daughter married). These cantankerous Clint Eastwood types often enjoy a high level of influence within the family, and everyone is simultaneously respectful and fearful of them.

Meaning that if you get him to warm up to you, the entire family will soon be in awe of your cojones. These guys usually just want attention, so chat him up about what it was like when he was your age, and even ask him for advice. This talk will bring him back to simpler times and make him feel important—a one-two punch sure to win over even the saltiest patriarch.

It helps to remember that the bar for success is usually rather low. Her past boyfriends probably never even talked to him. One ex’s grandfather said he liked me because “he doesn’t have his head firmly placed in his ass like every other guy his age, and doesn’t dress like a queer, either.” Assuming you can manage those two things, you’ll be well on your way.

Win this hard-ass over and you’ll be halfway to happy hour.

2. Run the Room
During larger gatherings, one of the biggest mistakes we guys make is following our girl around the place and expecting her to entertain us until it’s safe to bounce. This is not only annoying and weak, but also it signals your apathy toward her family and makes you look like an antisocial turd. Think how much your girl loves it when she can leave you alone for five minutes at a party. Same situation here.

So while she’s catching up with her family, take care of yourself, not only by watching some of the game with the guys, but by engaging the womenfolk as well. You don’t have to join the knitting circle, but you can pop into the kitchen and ask if they need anything from the store. This not only earns you major brownie points but also lets you get the hell out of there and breathe a bit.

Alternately, ask the chef(s) if they need any help. You don’t have to be Batali to peel potatoes or slice carrots, and it gives the ladies a chance to grill you on your personal life. Now you’ve got a built-in chance to humble brag and rave about their precious relative, all the while demonstrating that you’re a sensitive guy who’s considerate of others.

This is so money, since women love nothing more than to gossip about new people who come into the mix, and you might as well be there to defend yourself. This can be a huge win if you play it right.

Bonus tip: No man ever lost points by volunteering to help wash dishes.

3. Show the Pets Some Love
One of the biggest tricks in movies to get the audience to warm up to a character is to show him or her petting a dog or saving a cat from a tree. Hopefully by now you’ve realized that the only women you want to date come from families that own dogs, and the same principle applies here.

So be sure to play with the pets and get them to enjoy your presence. Like it or not, people put a lot of stock in whether their animals take kindly to new faces.

Besides, once you’ve determined he won’t bite your face off, you can offer to take Fido for a walk. That’s another easy way to score points and get a much-needed break from the pressure cooker.

Not exactly what we’d call an “ideal situation.”

4. Refrain From Excess PDA
If it’s not clear by now, one of the best things you can do is to establish yourself as a confident, charming and self-sufficient individual, as opposed to your girlfriend’s lap dog. The final piece of that puzzle is how you interact with her in front of her family.

And at this point, that’s pretty simple. You absolutely should tease her and show affection. Hold her hand when you go for a stroll to look at Christmas lights and put your arm around her on the couch. But by all means avoid gratuitous smooching or handsy-ness. Even if she likes it, the older members of the family will find it sleazy. Also, the more you can restrain your affection, the more your girl will want to rip your clothes off when she finally gets you alone.

So there you have it. Check each of these boxes and you should be good to go. Remember that most families actually want to like you, they just don’t know how to go about it. Show them the way, and the rest is as easy as Grandma’s homemade apple pie.