Christmas can bring out the worst in families. Here are eight ways to avoid conflict and survive a family Christmas.

We know what a family Christmas is supposed to look like. We’ve seen it in the adverts and the movies. But to some, even the idea of getting together with their family, brings dread and foreboding.  Old rivalries and roles can impinge on the here and now, and spoil everyone’s festive break, making Christmas feel hostile, smothering and a miserable fairy light prison.

Family bickering, sarcasm, digs, accusations and innuendo can trigger people to storm off, cry or become hostile. Some learn to tolerate their family antics with fake smiles, repressed feelings and a lot of alcohol!

 Thank goodness it is only once a year. For some, it is so bad it can be the last time they ever want to be together.

What often happens, is that when we get together at a family ‘do’, we revert to our childhood roles. We behave like the children we once were.  What happened way back then, is repeated now, even though we should be older and wiser. And we act out in front of our parents, years of hurt and anger.

So here are some ways to survive your family this Christmas

1) Create your boundaries and hold them.  This means expressing yourself and what you want. Tell them if/when you are coming and for how long you are staying. Stay assertive, not aggressive.

2) Tell people what you want. If you don’t tell them, they will not know. Please do not imagine that they are psychic. Use clear, kind communication.  My favourite phrase is “Would you be willing to….?” See my blog below, on Alexa for more details.

3) Decide to be positive. Develop a thick skin for the next few hours or days. Let barbs ping off your skin. Or try love bombing your antagonist.  That will confuse them.

4) If emotional, psychological warfare begins, just breathe. Do not instantly react. Use holding phrases such as “That’s interesting you say that..” or “I don’t remember it that way”. “Let me get back to you on that” or “ I really don’t want to talk about that right now”; “Well, that is something to think about.” Hold the adult position, don’t be a child.  Then later, well away from the boxing ring, have a deep think about why you are getting triggered by what others say.  Is it an old wound? Is there a theme? Maybe it’s time to sort out this emotional baggage that hurts you too easily.

Be generous with your attention

5) Do not be on your phone all the time.  It’s rude and makes others feel ignored and angry. Talk to people, play with the kids, even just watch TV with the others.  Be generous with your attention.

6) At meal times, sit next to people you like, who you get on with. Ask them how their year has been; take an interest in them. Ask open questions.

7) Avoid the rows by keeping busy. Help the hosts. “Can I do anything?” is always appreciated. Be the person who does the emergency dash to the supermarket if needed. Wash up. Offer to make tea and coffee. Walk the dog. Play with the children.  “Does anyone need anything?” is a lovely thing to say.

8) And always avoid hot topics that cause emotions to run high. No politics, election result and no Brexit. You’re just asking for trouble.

If you are going through a difficult relationship with friends or family and would like some help, please call me and we can work out what is really going on for you and together find solutions to enhance your happiness and mental health. Message or call me on 07879 297714

If you need help with communicating within a relationship, read my blog