Filled with dread about how to cope with family visits? Find ten tips on how to make it more harmonious over the festive period.
Recounting tales of seasonal squabbles to your friends after the event may bring much hilarity but its not so much fun at the time. Many families sail through Christmas smoothly but for more than a quarter, it can be a snowy mountain to climb.
So, what goes wrong? It may be different sides of the family coming together, all with a different idea of what Christmas ‘should’ be. Or possibly the long-buried habits, actions and alliances that are bubbling to the surface again after few glasses of fizz.
Its difficult not to feel like you should create the perfect magazine Christmas. That might also be what you want. However, wherever there is a ‘should’ or a ‘must’ be careful to consider if this is what you really want or what someone else wants.
If you are visiting someone else’s house, you have to accept that it can’t be your Christmas, which is the same when they come to yours. Embrace other’s habits and ways of doing things, you might even find that it is better than your way!
Ten tips to create a happier Christmas
1. Have a plan and share it. If everyone knows what is happening beforehand they may come better prepared. Or they can vent their frustration before the big day!
2. Take the stress out of the Christmas dinner. Think about shortcuts and paring the meal back. How many sides do you really need? You could think about cooking the turkey in advance or making gravy the day before.
3. Delegate. Give jobs to people, including children. Ask someone to bring the puddings or for people with dietary requirements to bring their own. Its OK to ask for help.
4. Some relationships may be particularly fragile to negotiate during Christmas and these interactions may carry the same hallmarks of when you were young. The best approach is to try to be aware of what is happening, why you are reacting the way you are and lift yourself out of it. Reverting to historic or negative behaviours can create a destructive cycle and if you can see it, you can break the cycle. Busy yourself with something else, bring another neutral person in or change the subject.
5. It may sound counter-productive but try to see a bit more of your family on the run up to Christmas Day. It allows time to get used to each other and get rid of any frustrations that may come out at Christmas. The once-a-year gathering can be intense and may be improved with more frequent contact.
7. Try not to get caught up with other people’s baggage. Every person brings into the room their experiences, needs and concerns, often out of awareness. It might feel like they are making pointed remarks or having a go but it might just be coming from their insecurities or needs. Try to recognise this and don’t take it personally.
Find time to think about each person before they come and look at Christmas from their perspective. Are they sad / disappointed / angry / stressed for some reason? How can you support their needs rather than reacting to them? We forgive children for getting overwhelmed at Christmas so try extending this to others. Others may be happy, supportive and fun...the perfect guest!
8. If it still feels like its all too much find some space, and take a moment to close your eyes and breathe. Make the most of it as someone will be looking for you before long! Try and be forgiving and gracious. You will feel better about the day if you can.
9. Have fun. Who is the person you can share the joke with when family are being predictable tricky? Find them and have fun with them.
10. Its not the end of the world if you opt out of the big Christmas or shake up the routine by eating out. Having a family ‘Christmas’ meet up before or after the big day avoids some of the stress points and may make for a more harmonious day.
Enjoy! Its your big day too and it only comes once a year.