Christmas can be a time of cheer and joy however the mix of alcohol, family members and hectic schedules can create a combustible cocktail of family conflict. Learn how to manage expectations and any potential arguments during this festive period.
Ah! The mixology of Christmas or should that read aaaaaargh? Blend together in-laws, elders, teenagers and toddlers, who may not be used to spending extended periods of time in each other’s company. Mix with a steady stream of alcohol et voilà! Many parents find they have unwittingly created a combustible cocktail of family conflict.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. The root cause of most family arguments stems from each person having very clear, but different ideas about how Christmas should be. As chief mixologist, the secret is to identify, discuss and agree how to manage different expectations with all your guests, well ahead of their arrival. We’ve gathered advice from relationship experts on some of the key triggers of family conflict along with solutions to manage them before they become a problem.
The lion’s share of preparation for Christmas tends to be done by women in the majority of UK homes. With the responsibility for buying and preparing food, cleaning and decorating the house, as well as planning and hosting family gatherings, tending to fall to women. This can lead to feelings of being put-upon, an emotion, which as many families will testify, has a habit of exploding into a good old barney between husband and wife on Christmas day.
This isn’t a pop at the chaps. While there would arguably be greater matrimonial peace on earth if more men mucked in with preparations, for this to work women need to embrace the idea of sharing around as many tasks as possible and delegate ruthlessly. Experts suggest spouses should sit down in the run up to Christmas, plan what needs doing and share tasks equally in order to maximise feelings of festive love.
The other kindness spouses can show to each other is to remain on high alert for potential conflict with in-laws. With every best intention, help from in-law’s can feel like interference, and managing differences in family traditions can leave our partner feeling undermined and potentially isolated in their own home.
Discussions around boundaries will hopefully avert most conflict, but it’s really helpful if both partners remain aware of how their own parents are making their partner feel. Step in to smooth over any issues that arise, rather than the more tricky option of leaving your partner to raise issues with their mother or father in-law.
Mixing ages and stages of life can provide lasting happy memories, but the greater the generation gap, the more likely a clash. While no one enters the Christmas spirit with intentions of discord, Grandparents and young children have very different needs. You may find yourself trying to scrape hyper-excited children off the celling, while accommodating the more genteel needs of elderly relatives.
Plan carefully managed activities to help accommodate the needs of all parties. Why not buy gifts that both grandparents and children can enjoy, or cook together or get the photo album out and ask older family members to explain family ancestry to your children. If all else fails a fresh air fix always works to calm tempers and put everyone in a better mood with the added bonus of tiring younger children out.
We all did it when we were young, waking up at three in the morning to rip open our stocking presents and gorge ourselves silly on the obligatory chocolate orange and coins. Expect karma payback in full as your children do the same. The key here is to accept the inevitable and remain vigilant for the first signs of a meltdown. When spotted, whisk overwrought child upstairs for a nap. With any luck a grandparent might be willing to accompany them for 40 winks so they don’t feel like they are missing out on the fun downstairs.