Coping With Family Conflict This Christmas

Family serving Christmas dinnerWith Christmas and other end of year festivities fast approaching, so too come the family get- togethers. Whilst for some this is a relaxing and wonderful time to be with loved ones whom you don’t often have the opportunity to see throughout the year, for many the words “dreaded” and “obligatory” precede any mention of “family Christmas meal.”

If tension and conflict are unwanted realities for you at this time of year, there ARE ways to lessen the pressure and help you manage December anxiety.

• Focus on the people at the gathering who you ARE happy to catch up with, rather than the ones you don’t get along with.

• If you have unresolved conflict with a family member, try to avoid using this time to address that. Save that conversation for a more appropriate and quiet time, and do your best to stay on topics that are neutral or positive.

• Keep yourself busy by helping out in the kitchen, tidying up, or playing with children. This can shift the focus away from feeling overwhelmed.

• Ask for help. If you’re hosting a Christmas lunch, don’t be afraid to ask your guests to bring a plate of food or drinks. Most people are more than happy to contribute.

• A Secret Santa/Kris Kringle is an excellent way to alleviate some of the financial burden that a large family gathering can bring. Each person has one gift to buy, rather than twenty, and ideally the same (and hopefully reasonable) budget is set for everyone.

• Physical activity and/or relaxation exercises in the lead up to the big day can be incredibly helpful in clearing the mind. Even if you can only manage a 5-minute walk on your lunch break, this can alleviate some of the stress you may be feeling.

• Plan ahead. If there are people coming to your dinner who you know don’t get along, have a seating plan that has them at opposite ends of the table, assign them jobs to help you, or have a game like backyard cricket that keeps everyone occupied and amused.

• Minimise alcohol intake. It’s common to reach for a drink when you’re stressed, especially at this time of year when you’re dealing with people you’d rather not have to. However with alcohol being a known depressant and likely to exacerbate ill feelings, it also has the potential to cause you to lose control and do or say things you may later regret.

• Perspective is key. Remember, for most, this is a once a year affair. Knowing there is an end in sight can help get you through the day.

• Stock up on Christmas crackers! Nothing lightens the mood and unites people more than daggy jokes and silly hats!