We can all imagine a perfect Christmas day: piles of presents, mounds of food, freely flowing wine and frosty beer, children and adults getting together to play cricket in the yard. Total family unison.
The reality is that Christmas is a frantic time for many people. We often spend it crawling through parking lots at shopping malls, worrying about money, planning and cooking food – all in the name of crafting the perfect family gathering.
All too often, one person is left doing the brunt of the work, another person drinks too much and spills a secret and someone’s child has a rude outburst. Any one of these events, big or small, can be enough to ruin a family get together.
So why does this conflict happen? A time like Christmas, that’s meant to bring families together, often serves as the backdrop to some pretty big familial dramas.
We tend to put a lot of emphasis on this day, using it as an opportunity to catch up with the family members (who we don’t necessarily like) but feel obliged to see. Relationships are a big source of emotional upheaval, and at a time like Christmas when emotions can run high, things can easily get out of hand.
It’s easy to understand then, why we can become overwhelmed and on edge, especially if we’re dealing with someone who mightn’t be our cup of tea.
But there are things you can do to help making dealing with tricky situations easier.
Take a moment
When you feel yourself becoming anxious or frustrated, take a moment to calm yourself. People can only get on your nerves if you allow them to. Before reacting to someone, try counting down silently from 10, take a walk or go into another room. Avoid falling into any social traps.
Know your emotional stressors
Know what, or who, are your triggers and try to limit the time you spend doing those tasks or speaking with these people. It’s not about shirking duties or ignoring a person, it’s simply about avoiding potential conflict.
Nip trouble-makers in the bud (subtly)
If you’re busy running around preparing food, topping up drinks, keeping the children in check while someone else sits at their leisure, or worse, tries to interfere with your process, give them a task. This will take one item off your to-do list and keep them out of your hair. Two birds, one stone.
Avoid trying to resolve longstanding conflict
Understanding that everyone might be a little on edge, perhaps Christmas isn’t the best time to clear the air around a past issue. Resentments and tensions can escalate when there’s a lot of pressure and just a little alcohol around, so be mindful of the time and place when bringing up the past.
Share the good stuff
Because Christmas really is a time to celebrate family, try to take moments out to appreciate everyone coming together. Recounting memories of past enjoyable times together is a lovely way to create a sense of solidarity. Depending on what your family is like, engaging in activities that foster a sense of togetherness will help bring you closer and make new memories. Try opening presents together, going for a round of cricket or playing a board game – just maybe not Monopoly!