27th November 2018 Lisa Gagliani

10 ways to survive a family Christmas

All around us, people are gearing up for the festive season. For some, this is a fantastic time of year –the build-up, parties, Christmas shopping, and the lights and decorations all creating a sense of excitement and anticipation.
For others though, Christmas can be lonely – or worse, a time of bitter disappointment and stress. We may joke about arguments over the best way to cook a Brussel sprout, but the festive season can easily see sparks flying all over the place unintentionally.
So, what’s the best way to survive a family Christmas if yours is one of the thousands of families who don’t really get on that well?

  1. Grin and bear it
    If you know what the likely hot-spots are or the triggers that turn a situation sour, can you avoid them? Try to set aside petty squabbles, and for the day at least resolve not to be drawn into areas that might cause a stir, be it a debate about Brexit or whether or not to watch the Queen’s speech.
  2. Be the best version of yourself
    Think about what the other family members might be wishing for and focus on them first. For example, children can easily be the most hurt when things erupt, so it might be best to focus mainly on them and leave the other annoying adults to their own devices. That could range from playing games with them, to nipping out to a garage to find the required batteries for the toys, or by curling up and reading the game instructions for your nephew.
  3. Be prepared to enjoy yourself
    This might sound obvious, but if you are dreading spending time with family, you almost certainly won’t enjoy it. Think about what you can do to ‘make amends’ and show some kindness towards those you are generally less keen on.
  4. Don’t over spend or confuse generosity with thoughtfulness
    If you try to buy your way into ‘goodwill to all men’ with lavishly expensive gifts, you’ll come unstuck. Someone will be embarrassed and resentful, because they can’t or won’t reciprocate and you will stew all afternoon at the lack of appreciation. Better to take a modest but considered gift or a home-made one, than a last-minute over indulgence.
  5. Pace yourself
    If spending time with your family is really stressful for you, then agree to limit the time you commit to spend together, if at all possible. It’s far from natural to spend days with grown-up relatives, so why agree to stay for three or four nights, when 24 hours is your personal best to avoid eruption? Plan ahead so you have other places to go, and let all parties know your plans in advance, so you don’t have to abandon ship before time and face recriminations.
  6. Don’t try to drown it in booze!
    Whilst it may be sorely tempting to get stuck in and drown out the whole thing by hitting the bottle early, this rarely solves anything and alcohol-induced arguments are all too common.
  7. Bored out of your mind?
    Feeling trapped with people you don’t choose to be with for a long period of time and not being on familiar ground close to exit routes and friends, can do your head in. If possible, take a book, game or project with you, that you can politely turn to when the need arises and you feel the need to scream.
  8. Hide in the kitchen
    The best way to avoid the bust-ups is to keep busy. This may mean choosing to do the chores and being the one to peel the spuds, stir the stock, lay the table, recycle the wrapping paper. It might seem cowardly, but there’s always someone stuck in the kitchen and unless that person is your nemesis, they’ll be grateful that someone is taking a turn.
  9. Take a breath of fresh air
    It might seem another avoidance tactic, but really a bracing long walk, either before and/or after the turkey/beef/nut roast has a lot to be said for it. The family dog will be delighted too.
  10. Plan ahead
    If all else fails and you find yourself counting down for it all to stop, then start now to plan your ‘get out of Christmas’ for next year. Holiday to the Caribbean, anyone?
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