For many people, Christmas time is a happy time of year with the opportunity to be joyful and grateful with family, friends and colleagues. However, for a lot of people, Christmas can bring about other less pleasant emotions such as anger, low mood or loneliness. And with the way COVID-19 has impacted our lives over the past 2 years, some may not be able to connect with family, miss out on seeing loved ones or caring for those in need.

Family challenges and conflicts often arise, and Christmas time can heighten the frustration, anger, or tension. Bringing family together can open up old wounds and alcohol can create uninhibited behaviour. You may feel obliged to spend time with those you have little in common with and experience excessive criticism or belittling. As adults we spend weeks if not months buying gifts, planning food, and putting up decorations; hoping we’ll recreate the perfect family gathering.

family Christmas time challenges conflict

Usually though, it falls short. Someone ends up doing all the work or all the cooking and feeling exhausted. Someone
drinks too much. Someone says something awful. Someone doesn’t say anything at all. Someone is just lazy and ungrateful.

On the flip side, you may find yourself feeling lonely and isolated, if your family is further away from you, or significant changes such as illness or separation have changed your family dynamics.

Many of us have enormously high expectations when it comes to the holiday season, however we need to realise that these expectations may not be a reality in 2021. This is where resentment can build from feelings of obligation and pressure.

What to Remind Yourself this Christmas –

  • Don’t try and resolve long standing tensions on Christmas Day – it’s a time to be jolly. Try leave the past where it is, and enjoy the day itself. Avoid anyone who may provoke you.
  • Include everyone in conversation – some may be mentally struggling on the inside and won’t mention anything to you. Some people feel if they don’t have any ‘big news’ or something exciting to talk about, they feel on edge or down.
  • Share memories – reminiscing about the littlest things can be a great way to lighten the mood and give everyone a laugh or a smile, even if it’s for a moment.
  • Have bon bons on the table – Christmas crackers or bon bons are a great ice breaker – with their bad hats, silly toys and corny jokes. They get everyone laughing, even at how bad the jokes are.
  • Take a moment to have some quiet time – having a quiet space for people to go is a good idea for all ages, but especially if you have little kids or if you find the day overwhelming.
  • Reduce the pressure – it’s ok to not go to every Christmas celebration, or run yourself in the ground to; be at every event; help with setting up or the food; try be the one who keeps the peace – it’s ok to take it slow and not do it all! Increased pressure means you won’t be yourself; you’ll be on edge or stressed and feel exhausted and anxious about the whole process.

If you feel you need some help or advice to get through this period of family challenges between now through to the New Year, please reach out to our team. We can assist you to work through these challenges, and prepare you so you feel calmer and in control for the holiday season.

Written by Rebecca Deane – Clinical Psychologist –