A. Family. Christmas.
Three words that can strike dread into anybody’s festive calendar. Although we love our families to death (we do really), Christmas seems to take any dysfunctional dynamics to a whole new level. It’s no coincidence that divorce enquiries hit a high every year after the Christmas period. Age old grudges, clashing characters and forced family time in an enclosed space over a few days can easily shake Christmas into a cocktail of catastrophe.
Here are our 5 tips to survive Christmas with your self-esteem and relationships in tact.
1. PLAN AND PLAN AND PLAN
If you plan to enjoy Christmas before the big day then you undoubtedly will. If you actually make a realistic plan and stick to it then you will enjoy it even more.
If you are hosting this year, then plan the day so there is little room for any arguing about what to do next. Keep all your guests informed of the plan for the day so that they can manage themselves and their free time accordingly – stockings on waking, breakfast at 10, Fizz and presents by the tree at 11am, lunch at 3pm etc
Also, give everyone a small job, even the children. Not only will your guests be grateful to contribute, you look like less of a martyr AND you will get some help. Delegate away.
3. BE PRESENT – Put your phone away
Here lies angst. If you are already struggling with being around family then wallowing over images of inspiring Christmases on Instagram and fancy fantasy Facebook posts will not improve your mood or your day. Staring at your phone and not engaging with you family will not make Christmas go with a swing. Put it away. You can look at your phone in private when you go to bed. An early night you say?
3. PERFECT YOUR ‘GIFT’ FACE
Now, if there is one skill you need for Christmas then this is the one.
If there are no presents under the tree for you (circa 2015 and I didn’t behave well) then force a smile and plan to buy yourself an enormous, expensive present in January.
If your Brother-in-law bought half of Jo Malone for your Sister and you only got some socks from Next (mmmmm this is testing) just think how much you will receive for half the house. No, seriously, think how easy it is to buy presents when money isn’t an issue. Buying presents on a budget is much harder AND At least your feet will be warm. (think its the thought that counts through gritted teeth ).
If you hate the presents you have received, then smile graciously and say ‘how thoughtful of you – thank you for getting me this tea cosy – I have wanted one for ages’. It may pain you at the time but 5 minutes later you will be incredibly proud of yourself.
Another bugbear is not getting enough love and thanks for the carefully chosen presents you are gifting. Nothing is more disappointing than people looking unenthused at the present you spent ages searching for. If this happens then just take a moment and hope that the thanks will come later. If it doesn’t, then just make a mental note to re-gift them the tea cosy or the socks from this year.
For more on creating an attitude to gratitude check out Miss Manners.
4. AVOID BREXIT/TRUMP/POLITICS
There is no doubt that we are living in a very political climate. There is much we DO NEED to be talking about but please note that if you want to survive CHRISTMAS then THIS IS NOT THE TIME. To avoid stabbing any of your family with the turkey fork, take heed and leave politics, religion and money off the table – at least for a couple of days.
Re-enacting the Merkel/May stand off is not going to help anyone nor is putting Nick Cleggs’s book “How to Stop Brexit’ in your Brexiteer Brothers Stocking. Even for a laugh. Put it down now.
5. LOOK FOR THE POSITIVE
When people are bugging you, it can be easy to focus on the negative. Instead, try to think about all the positive things about your family and how lucky you are. Without being saccharine – do think about all the people who would give anything to have a warm house, delicious food and their very own dysfunctional family.
Be grateful and give thanks.
TOP 5 DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY MOVIES TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER
THE FAMILY STONE
A reminder that most families are completely dysfunctual but underneath all the angst we still love each other.
One for the kids and a nostalgic re-run. Who hasn’t fantasied about losing their whole family for Christmas and being able to run riot alone?
Well it’s true that we have a bit of a girl crush on Reece Witherspoon. We love any film she stars in even if she is actually a really horrible person in this film.
Typically cheesy, British and featuring all kinds of dysfunction. Includes some life lessons, offers some hope and will make you appreciate family.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION
Maybe an example of how NOT to behave this Christmas but if your family are misbehaving then this will make you feel a whole lot better.