Family Christmas Survival Guide

Helping you to have a fun and festive time with our Family Christmas Survival Guide!

Our Family Christmas Survival Guide is relevant whatever faith, religion or non-religious practices you follow. This time of year is traditionally about getting together with family and friends and bringing some light into the darker days. For some, this is the most wonderful part of the festivities, everyone being together. For others, it's a waking nightmare! We hope to help overcome the common hurdles of family fall-outs and steer you on a course for a stress free and fun time for all.

    Assumptions, Expectations & Communication

    The first and most effective thing you can do to improve your Family Christmas is to communicate. So often we fall into the trap of assuming that everyone knows something or agrees about something when in fact there are several different thoughts and opinions on the issue. No-one knows that they disagree on these points until it's too late and you find yourself in the midst of a blazing row. We all have different ideas and expectations of what is supposed to happen at Christmas, and when. For example, in my family, we were absolutely never allowed to open a present before Christmas Day. But one year we had Christmas with my brother and his girlfriend, for whom Christmas wouldn't be Christmas if you didn't stand around the tree on Christmas Eve and sing before opening a single present each. We incorporated this into our celebrations and felt all the richer for the experience. Accommodating different traditions is possible and very enjoyable if we don't assume everyone wants to do what we do and instead talk about it beforehand.

      Planning and Plan B

      Tied into the avoidance of assumptions is the next most helpful tip. Make a Plan. Even when we're all on the same page in terms of the ingredients that will make a perfect family Christmas, there's so much to fit in, it requires a little planning. Plans can be very loose and flexible but it's better to have them. If you're involved in organising anything on the day, make sure you communicate clearly to the whole family. If you want everyone sat down for Christmas dinner at 2pm ask them all to gather for pre-dinner nibbles, drinks or a game half an hour before you want them to be seated. And then make sure they get updates if dinner is delayed or you suddenly need to break off to engage the whole family in a rendition of The Fairytale Of New York! You can't expect everyone to be where you want them if you don't keep them informed of your plans. If you are not part of the organising team, make it your business to find out what is planned for when. That way you can earmark times when you are free to do what you want; sneak out for a while or hide in a quiet room, without incurring the wrath of organisers who've been working hard to make Christmas happen! And when all the planning goes out the window, let whatever happens instead be your Plan B and "Let It GO...!"

        Space and Time

        Talking of sneaking off for a while, I think it is crucial to factor in some time out for everyone. In spite of its occurring just a few days after the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, Christmas Day is a long day. It starts when the most excited family member wakes up and yells "Father Christmas Has Been!" and goes on till the most die-hard party animal has finally passed out. In between there is so much to fit in, everyone is exhausted by tea time. I heartily recommend scheduling a bit of time out. It could be a period during the day where everyone can slip off to do their own thing if you have enough space for that. It could be individually, ensuring everybody gets a chance for a lie-down or to quietly read a book. Or it could be all together in front of the Telly enjoying a good old family film. Make sure you get some down-time to keep your own tempers calm. But also, make it your job to ensure that whoever is looking the most run off their feet or stressed gets their down time too.

          Battles & Tolerance

          With expectations high, hours of sleep low, alcohol levels rising and underlying family tensions possible, it's not surprising that many a Family Christmas gathering comes with the odd squabble, uproar or brawl! If you follow the first 3 steps, you'll be well on your way to avoiding an all-out family feud over the sprouts and roast potatoes. But there's always the possibility of short tempers and differences of opinion at key, high-stress moments. Or someone bringing up old, unresolved grievances in the middle of a round of charades. At these moments I urge you to take a deep breath before you open your mouth! Remember, it's Christmas! Choose your battles wisely. Ask yourself if engaging in this dispute is going to get either of you anywhere? Is there any benefit in fanning this flame of conflict or digging up old wounds, right now, in front of Grandma & Great Auntie Jean? To be completely fair, sometimes it can be the right thing to do. If there is an unresolved issue causing underlying tension within the family, perhaps the time has come to talk about it. But before you get into a slanging match, ask yourself whether you're opening this can of worms for resolution or for effect? If you are not ready to move towards a peaceful conclusion then maybe now is not the time. Exercise tolerance for the sake of a peaceful Christmas and hold your tongue, for now at least!

            When Not To Join In

            It might not be you who starts the bickering and battling but you might accidentally find yourself in the middle of it. You now have a choice; whether or not to join in. You may set out to be the mediator, you may attempt to play down their problems and reason with the engaged parties, reminding them that "It's Christmas!" But the second you dip your toe into the argument, you put yourself at risk of being embroiled in the fracas. My advice, on walking in on a Family Christmas heated exchange, is to walk straight back out again! Don't try to rationalise with them, they're not rational at this moment in time, don't try to sympathise, you'll end up "taking sides". Walk away and do what you can to maintain the festive spirit elsewhere. Create a distraction & an atmosphere they'll want to return to. In all likelihood, they will. At which point, welcome them back with open arms and a festive treat (mince pie/chocolate truffle/Sherry etc.) and continue with the festivities!

              When To Join In

              Family Christmas is always more fun when everyone joins in. From the cooking and the washing up to the silly games and the brisk walk. It might not be your cup of tea but it'll mean so much to the rest of the family if you get involved anyway. Encourage Grandma to play the new and ridiculous game your teenage son brought specially and encourage him to play a few rounds of Charades in return. Invent new games, the sillier the better, and say yes to what you're invited to have a go at. One of our family favourites is One Christmas Song to the Tune of Another, this can have hilarious results. You'll need the words in front of you and I recommend mixing carols with pop songs for added hilarity! This is where you'll find the real joy of Christmas and rediscover that you're all on the same team at the end of the day. This is where great memories are made that keep us going through the winter months. Now, pass the Prosecco and who's for a game of Pictionary?
                Thanks for reading and a Very Merry Christmas from all of us at Blue Badge Co
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