Step Family Survival Guide For The Festive Season

karen-phillip

Karen Phillip

Relationships Expert

Christmas is upon us again as we all prepare for that family get together. Those family members we can tolerate on that once a year visit and those we may not like at all spending time together at Christmas. Many of us also have that other family, the stepfamily members.

By the time Christmas Day arrives we are usually all slightly stressed financially, emotionally and physically. The lead up to the day can be overwhelming, especially if you have younger children to shop for and then hide the gifts from.

chchImage via pinterest

Extended and stepfamily members may only visit on occasion; they may have difficult personalities to deal with or expectations that may exceed our ideas. Spending time together as an extended family can certainly have its challenges. How then can we ensure our Christmas holiday period is managed as comfortable and content as possible while keeping everyone happy.

Remember almost everyone is tired and worn out on Christmas Day. The day often starts early; long preparation is exhausting and then we usually overindulge on food and alcohol. All this can make a great or challenging day.

It is when our expectations are disillusioned that we start to become stressed, upset or irritated. The important point to remember is our expectations are ours; often no one knows what they are as they are internal to us. We place our anticipations on others from our map of our world and can become disappointed when others fail to meet them.

When we have step children, we naturally want to share their excitement. We may also have our own children present, and inherently we focus more on them. We may experience sometime during that day where our children are with their other parent, and we feel a degree of emptiness. So many emotions can invade us over Christmas.

christmasImage via pinterest

If we sometimes struggle with our step children’s behaviour, we must realise that step children have been raised differently to our own children. The rules and boundaries they have been raised with may be unlike the expectations we have raised our children with. Behaviours, language and responses may be different and sometimes it isn’t until all the family is together this is really noticed or recalled. If the stepchild is behaving poorly, then their parent needs to step in, not anyone else. This is the job only for the parent of the child, not the step parent.

Remember also that kids can be very tired and overwhelmed with excitement at Christmas so if we expect perfect behaviour chances are we may be disappointed. A rest or sleep in the early afternoon is often a very good idea for them. It is a great idea for most of us adults too, but unfortunately, with a house full of guests this is not likely.

Once all we sit down to eat our Christmas meal together, alcohol begins to flow more freely, people sit back and relax, barriers are lowered. We may then experience some conversations that become escalated. According to research, this is not an unusual occurrence at Christmas lunch or dinner.

Remember what it is you want; a quiet and enjoyable family Christmas. We need to do what we can to achieve this. It is only one day in our year after all. There may be family members that have loud ideas, and they may offend us or speak without regard of others present. While we may feel challenged, the most important thing to remember is why we are all together. It is Christmas; a time of loving, giving and sharing and yes this can also mean tolerating for the greater good of all joining on on the day’s celebration.

I have a few suggestions to reduce any conflictual conversations over that Christmas meal. If anyone starts to challenge the responses of another or make harsh comments, I recommend saying respectfully

Thank you for sharing
Glad you shared your opinion
Sorry you feel that way
Interesting point, perhaps we could discuss this more in depth at a later time
I will consider that

By doing this, it stops any escalation of conflict. We need to avoid a reaction. A Reaction is made with emotion and no logic; a Response is created with consideration and logic.

Christmas is a time for reuniting with family you may only see once a year. It can be a fantastic time to catch up and enjoy them. It is a time for joy, sharing, laughter and celebration. If we focus on this and not the problems, it really helps. We should not allow one or two people to infringe on this happy day. It is one day of tolerance and a year to enjoy the memories and gifts.

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