For many, Christmas is certainly the most wonderful time of the year. The festive season is synonymous with Santa, presents and family celebrations. But it doesn’t come without hard work and often a fair amount of stress.
While the holidays can provide an opportunity to bond with relatives, it can also emphasise tension among family relationships. Even though most will approach family gatherings with the best of intentions, old rivalries, unresolved arguments and strained relationships can make Christmas gatherings all the more challenging.
Add to this the expectation of perfect happy families enjoying gifts and celebrations together, and the stress can become overwhelming - this stress in itself can contribute to conflict during the Christmas season.
So here are some great tips from our Marriage and Relationship Education Team to help you manage stress and family conflict during the festive period:
- Communicate in a positive manner
When dealing with stressful conversations, the language and tone that you use with family members can either help or hinder communication. Ensure you communicate clearly and concisely in order to limit confusion and misunderstandings.
- Focus on the positives
Focus on an individual’s positive traits rather than the qualities that irritate you. This will help you develop some respect for the person and communicate positively during conflict.
- Respect each other’s points of view
Everyone is entitled to their own feelings, beliefs and opinions. Agree to disagree when you can’t establish a common ground on an issue.
- Discuss areas of concern early on
If possible, discuss any areas of concern with family members before the festivities begin in order to reduce the chances of underlying issues or recent disagreements surfacing during Christmas celebrations.
- Put kids first
If you have children, consider putting aside ongoing adult conflicts in the best interest of the children and focus on enabling their happiness on the day. Observing their happiness and seeing Christmas through their eyes might help take your mind off any ongoing issues and stress.
- Make plans far in advance
Especially where there has been a recent divorce or separation in the family, or where step families are concerned, make plans far in advance knowing who is going to be where. Ensure children have an opportunity to voice their suggestions for the celebrations too.
- Drink in moderation
It may be tempting to drink a bit more during the festive period (particularly if you’re dealing with awkward situations at family gatherings). However, alcohol can add to conflict as reduced inhibitions can contribute to or cause unnecessary arguments, resulting in added stress, anxiety or depression.
- Set realistic expectations
Christmas might not be the fabulous family gathering you hoped for. Anticipate what could happen on the day and plan ahead on how you would deal with feelings of anxiety or disappointments that could arise.
- Get plenty of rest
Carve out some time for yourself in the lead up to family gatherings. Put aside last minute shopping and to-do lists and make rest and relaxation a priority. This will help to ease any underlying tension you may have and help you to manage issues that arise with a calm, clear and rested mind.
- Accept what you cannot change
Finally, accept things that are out of your control. Have a plan to deal with stressful situations should they arise during family gatherings – such as going for a walk, sitting alone and taking some deep breaths, or talking to someone that you trust.
While Christmas can be a difficult period for many families, we hope that these tips will be useful in creating a warmer, calmer and happier atmosphere in your home this year.