Expert Advice On Avoiding Family Tension This Holiday Season

Karen Phillip

Relationships Expert

Christmas is often a time when families get together, many after not seeing each other for some time. We are often tired and indulge in alcohol resulting in personality differences being vocalised. It is a time of family conflict for many.

Christmas day is renowned for family feuds. Sitting around the dinner table talking and laughing is great until someone says something that we feel is offensive or wrong. Then the heavens can erupt.

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The best way to avoid these difficulties is to accept that many family members have different personalities and accept we cannot control another person’s behaviour; we can only control our own. And control is often what we need to do.

Knowing the family will be getting together is exciting while at times concerning. This can escalate if brothers and sisters or parents and children, once grown, are in conflict or have a strained relationship. The problem many experience is that each member believes they are right in what they think and feel and the other person is therefore wrong.

When siblings are in disagreement it is important to recognise their point of view even if you may not concur completely. Point out how important it is to you and the rest of the family that these differences be buried for the Christmas period and this is particularly important if children are going to be present. Point out Christmas is a special time for children and conflict is never appropriate with children around. Express confidence they are old enough and smart enough to put their feelings aside for this time.

Similar emotions can occur when you are dealing with an expartner over this period. You are sometimes forced to endure their presence for the children.

Many separated parents choose to be together for the children at Christmas and this can sometimes include the new partner. Tension is often escalated for the expartner who may not have a new person to share this time with. Preparing yourself for this joint event is required. Understand that you may be uncomfortable and remind yourself it is for the child or children, so place their needs first. We know Christmas is a time for children so concentrating on them can remove the feelings we are carrying.

How do we manage these intensifying feelings?

– Recognise you can control your behaviour and responses, no one else’s

– You are not responsible for what another person does or says

– Tolerance is the key, a smile or laugh can often diminish irritation

– Concentrate on those who you like and can speak with, while ignoring those who annoy

– Recognise you have an issue and take steps to deal with your feelings and emotions

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