From present disasters to sibling rivalry, the festive season can leave you feeling frazzled and furious. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Relate counsellor DEE HOLMES offers her advice for defusing the seven big family arguments at this time of year.
He didn't get you the right gift (or anything)
SO you spent days or even weeks sourcing thoughtful presents for your partner. In return you get . . . a voucher. Or maybe nothing more than: “Sorry, babe.”
Their thoughtlessness could be a sign of a bigger problem but Christmas Day is not the time to argue. Don’t let disappointment linger and overwhelm the big day itself.
Instead, take your beloved aside a few days later and gently explain that it hurts your feelings if they put no effort into picking gifts.
The kids kick off
KIDS can make your Christmas . . . or ruin it. Whether you have huffy teens or overtired toddlers, don’t set unrealistic expectations of “magic” or try to cram in too much.
Kids do want to play with their presents, so don’t open them 20 minutes before you’re due at your mum’s house. Stroppy teen refusing to join in? Negotiation is the key. Work out what bits they must be part of – then don’t sweat the rest of it.
Christmas is a time for family, yes, but consider inviting over one or two of their mates if that will smooth things over.
Everyone else kicks off
ADULTS who go home for Christmas can revert to a child state – sibling rivalry and other resentments resurface year after year. Add booze to the mix and things can turn ugly.
The key to resolving this is timing. Don’t let people start drinking at breakfast then have no plan to feed them until 6pm. If people are drinking, have a meal, walk, game or film to go with it. Arguments often start when people don’t know what they are doing next or are bored.
Never tell someone they are drunk and should pipe down. Instead, refuse to engage in a row and hopefully they will nod off.
Struggle with in-laws
CHOOSING your partner doesn’t mean choosing their family as well. But you must respect them, if nothing else for the sake of the kids.
In-laws are your children’s grandparents, aunts and uncles. Don’t drink too much and stay away from the areas of disagreement, like politics. Ask yourself: “Does this really matter in the grand scheme of things?”
Kids’ behaviour can cause ructions. Calmly enforce the rules you have with your own children and resist the urge to score points or interfere with others’ parenting.
Also, take some time out. You needn’t spend all day in one room together. Let off steam to a partner if need be.
Where to spend Xmas
THE temptation is to let this one fester but instead tackle it early, head on.
New couples often don’t feel their individual needs are met to get enough family time. The fairest thing is alternating whose family home you go to each year. Try spending Christmas Day with his parents and Boxing Day with yours.
Or be bold and say you simply want to spend this Christmas Day together as a couple. You can always visit loved ones during the rest of the week.
The same goes for who you invite over. Helpfully, this year there is a weekend just before Christmas Day.
How much to spend
SOME families splurge at Christmas while others focus on birthdays.
In couples, there can be friction between their different family traditions. Work out a joint budget. How many presents do you need to buy and what would you like to spend on each person?
For couples with different salaries, one solution can be to put half their earnings, after bills and essentials, into a kitty. Half of the kitty then goes towards presents and the other half towards something else you value.
That could be more gifts or saving for a holiday in January instead. The most important thing is to respect the other person’s choice.
Mum does ALL the work
DITCH the martyrdom and resentment. This one is all about sharing out the roles. You must be clear about how much help you need and when you want it.
Vegetables can be prepared the day before, for instance, and presents wrapped days or even weeks in advance.
Why not make the preparation part of your Christmas rituals as a family? Wrap presents together while watching a festive movie like Love Actually, or peel the spuds on Christmas Eve while having a drink and mince pie.
If you create some fun around the chores, they won’t feel like hard work.
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