A guide to avoiding family conflict this Christmas

Things you can do to help deal with tricky situations this Christmas.

Avoiding conflict at Christmas

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!



    To make a comment, please register or login
    24th Dec 2018
    Been to Woolworths this morning. The seafood queue was around 40 metres long so no seafood for us this year other than what's in the freezer.
    Conflicts? We all have them in one form or another.
    I remember the song from Paint Your Wagon (Lee Marvin was a terrible singer!)....."mud can make you prisoner and the plains can make you dry. Snow can burn your eyes but only people make you cry". I often ponder on that song during Christmas time.

    Good luck to any who have a loving family where children's partners are decent people. Some of you have 'em. Congratulations.
    A Merry Christmas to all. Hopefully it is a time of joy for you all.
    24th Dec 2018
    Same to you Mick.
    24th Dec 2018
    Merry Christmas Mick and thank you for the tip on Citibank card for travel. I have one son in law I’m not mad on, so know what you mean. They’re interstate, so not coming this year. Love prawns but buy them fresh as live near the sea. Given up the 5.00 am queues. Less people but plenty of stock at 5 pm.
    24th Dec 2018
    I've been to the shops too, only when I got home my darling found the carton of eggs had one crook egg. Time to reflect, back to the shop or consign it to the compost? Bugger the shops, off to the compost it goes. I do the same same with annoying people, there's one in every crowd, be polite and acknowledge their existence but don't let them destroy your day, also you can't put them in the compost either.
    24th Dec 2018
    And avoid the highways on Boxing Day...
    24th Dec 2018
    We have the best way to avoid Xmas Family Stress: keep well away. We have 120km of water between us and the closest, so no chance that they will drop in while we are having a nosh-up. Of course, we could always argue, just the two of us...

    Might be a bit warm though, this Xmas. We might get to 24!!(shock horror!!). Suffer, you folk in the North Islanders...
    24th Dec 2018
    YouToo? We could start a movement....ha ha ha.
    Unless we are alone genYs are different to us for the most part. Of course it could be us but decent behaviour and kindness are never generational.
    28th Dec 2018
    We are at the age now where we dont bother going to these large family gatherings...we catch up in the NY...spoke to a lady in supermarket today and she said she now hates Xmas...too much work for her..ungrateful younger generation and no matter what you give them they are not happy.
    24th Dec 2018
    Why are there such long queues for flaming prawns. What is so special about prawns that causees long queues. I saw this at Penrith one year, the guard was letting the number people in to the counter erquivalent to the number just leaving. Absolutely rediiculous. I went to Coles at Burpengary this morning at 7.30 to get a parking space found 3 empty ones !!; inside it was crowded, didn't go to the deli (prawn) section. not interested in prawns. Why do people leave their shopping until the 24th. All I wanted was bread, and croissantes, and pick up an order for Fruit platter. Nothing else, did my shop last Friday.
    24th Dec 2018
    They're cheap and its Christmas. People just go nuts this time of year and (normally) pay anything to get the product.
    Old Geezer
    24th Dec 2018
    I find prawns tasteless myself and wonder why others think they are so great. I had one at party a few nights back and all I wanted to do was wash the smell off my hands after peeling them.
    24th Dec 2018
    That's because you buy the big ones. Buy the little ones and avoid Vanamei prawns.
    Peeling? Give us all a break OG...who wipes your backside for you.
    Sorry. Its Christmas and I should be a lot kinder and considerate. Have a nice one and hope your kids treat you well. Cheers.
    24th Dec 2018
    Savour the sweet smell of seafood on your fingers.... kinda reminds you of something, don' it?
    24th Dec 2018
    Frank . Not all people It could be that people have pre ordered seafood and picking them up on Christmas eve. Some people prefer seafood to meat.
    24th Dec 2018
    Much to my surprise, I agree with OG on this. I hate peeling them!

    24th Dec 2018
    Avoid the ex's daughter-in-law - a clear nutter... she can brunch with them tomorrow at the park - I'm going fishing..... conflict avoided.
    24th Dec 2018
    To avoid stress of shopping I pre order my fruit vegies seafood and ham online. You can pre order seafood via whatever store you shop at. If you do not want to spend the entire with family then tell family otherwise Marry All families have conflict. Please be nice to shop a shop assistants. They do the best they can under pressure. Merry Christmas to all. Safe driving on the road.
    24th Dec 2018
    Agree with you, KB. Two shop assistants unloaded onto me because they'd each had a customer who was rotten to them.
    29th Dec 2018
    I ordered online this year due to illness but got the wrong order. Never again!
    24th Dec 2018
    I stay home. Once I used to go to family gatherings but I got sick of my mother putting on turns and tantrums to make herself the centre of attention, so I no longer go. I have a lovely time - peace and quiet - as a consequence,
    Old Geezer
    24th Dec 2018
    No problem at my place as Christmas is just a boring day with everything shut for some reason.
    24th Dec 2018
    How to avoid family conflict? simple - don't visit your family over Christmas. You don't have to cram everything into the one day. And if you are hosting the get-together, give everyone something to do and / or bring. No one person should have to shoulder that load. Ditch the expectations. Limit the alcohol. Focus on the good. Have fun!
    26th Dec 2018
    As this is past publication day no one will probably read this.
    However I just have to say thank you. Everytime I felt just a teeny bit overwhelmed I delegated - and it worked. They were only too happy to help. I just had to ask :)
    So thank you.
    26th Dec 2018
    Thanks to our family we had a great Christmas not a hard word in sight.
    Retired Knowall
    27th Dec 2018
    Here are some interesting stats on the Christmas Period.
    Domestic Violence - up 46%
    Burglaries - Up 35%
    Alcohol Fueled Violence - Up 38%
    Physical Assaults - Up 27%
    Sexual Assaults - Up 32%
    Road Trauma - Up 23%
    Road Deaths - Up 38%
    Happy New Year.

    27th Dec 2018
    We had a great day. All the well known trouble makers at one table. The Labor guys at another, the LNP at another. We invited no Greens supporters because they would only criticise.
    Happy New Year!
    29th Dec 2018
    One lot of my inlaws talk over each other all the time. It is much more interesting if only one person talks and the others listen at any given time. Of course, this would be impossible with too many people, but should be manageable most of the time with eight or so.

    29th Dec 2018
    When I was a child, and when my children were growing up, Christmas was always a special family occasion - a chance to get together with loved ones and enjoy just being together. Everyone contributed to the feast. It was a wonderful time.
    Then my son married and became a father and Christmas turned into a nightmare. Every year, I struggled to find a way to restore the togetherness and happiness I associated with the season, and every year I ended up stressed and broken - insulted, abused, falsely accused, unfairly blamed, lied about, given a gift designed deliberately to offend, and bombarded with selfish demands. Nothing I tried helped. No matter what I did or what I gave, it was always wrong. When I asked him what his problem was, he described all the outrageously unreasonable expectations I didn't fulfil and invented stories of wrongs against him and his family that never happened - usually reversing roles in stories of cruel things he did to hurt others.

    This year, I spent a quiet Christmas with my partner and one child, in-law and one grandchild. It was sad for my grandchild having no children to play with and he missed his cousins. I didn't even hear from my son or his children. Nothing! And I didn't try to contact him because I couldn't bear the inevitable response. But Christmas was blissfully peaceful. I have had a lovely few days with family who appreciate me and care about me.

    I will never again try to recreate Christmas as it used to be. I will never again even invite my son to share with us. I simply don't need the pain. I've created a new Christmas tradition. From now on I will spend it with people who love and value me, because loving a child and giving them all that you can is evidently never enough for some offspring.
    Retired Knowall
    31st Dec 2018
    Yes, Iv'e seen it countless time...the more you give, the more is expected and the less it's appreciated.

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