Navigating the Christmas Argy-Bargy
Christmas is supposed to be a time that we come together as a family to celebrate Love, Peace and Joy... But invariably bickering or arguments erupt! Our stress levels are at the max trying to make this the "Perfect Christmas" for everyone. Instead, the kids are winging that they're bored or fighting over the X-Box, Aunty Julie isn't speaking to Bethany because she forgot her birthday, Mum won't come if Dad brings his new girlfriend, and you forgot to put the frozen turkey out to defrost and apparently that's YOUR FAULT! Ahhhh!!!!
So how do we navigate safely this time of the year and not loose our focus on Love, Peace and Joy??
Clarify what's actually important! What do these holidays really mean to you? Is it about family, does it have a spiritual meaning or is it your chance to finally relax? Rather than get caught up in consumerism and swept away with marketing ploys, ask yourself "What's important to me about this holiday?", "What do I want it to be about?". Then once you're clear, build your plans around this value. For example, it could be a holiday away from home to relax; or letting the kids decorate the Christmas tree so they can be involved.
Clarify who's important! It's easy for our Christmas calendar to fill up with engagements and parties. But this is a chance to spend time with our nearest and dearest. To show those important people that we care and we are thinking about them! Consider for a moment... Who adds value to your life? Who do you care most about? Then set time aside for those special folk. Remember, we make time for those we truly care about!
Loose your tight grip on "Perfection". Perfection is unattainable and brings only disappointment and criticism. We all want the "best" for our loved ones, but the best is not about perfection. It's about trying our best in that moment, doing our best for our family, whether it's wrapping a present or playing a game with the kids. And your best will vary on any given day, and at any given moment. There are so many variables at play! So labouring over the folds of a present for an extra hour to perfect the wrapping, won't bring you any closer to perfection. And chances are, it's not what's best for your family nor the best use of your time? Instead it will rob you of time with family and take you away from doing what matters. The result is an escalation in stress and an decrease in tolerance for the people we care about, thereby fueling the family arguments?
Be realistic about relationships. Things between feuding family will not change just because it's Christmas. And sensitive topics will remain sensitive, even though you are sharing bon bons over the Christmas table. So set realistic expectations about relationships. Don't seat ex's together, or open up discussions about politics or religion with polar opposite people. Don't use this time either as an opportunity to "mend bridges" between your brother and father. Trying to manufacture relationships and truces will inevitably fail at this time of year. Put your rose coloured glasses away and see the reality of the situation between people. This means you may need to be diplomatic with your guest list and or seating arrangements!
It's your home. Be prepared to set limits! Every household has an unwritten (or maybe written) rule for what behaviour is acceptable and not acceptable. The rules for behaviour that you live by in your home should always be honoured, no matter the guest. Whether its no feet on the coffee table or running in the house, don't be afraid to kindly remind your guests of your rules. It's not about being bossy or controlling. It's about consideration and respect.
Say No to hostility! And of course, when it comes to arguments you need to be prepared to set the limits! Yelling, swearing, and aggressiveness is never OK! It creates an environment of hostility and tension and fear. So if you know for certain guests have a history of this behaviour, pre-warn them of the rules and have a clear consequence for that behaviour, such as one warning and then being asked to leave. It's YOUR HOME and YOU have the RIGHT to FEEL SAFE! But you need to be prepared to follow through, be consistent and set the limit. It may seem overwhelming in the moment to set the limit, but it holds so much value for you and your loved ones in the long run.
You are Important! Self-care is so important at this time of year. As we head full-on into the"silly season" we don't normally rate ourselves high on the priority list. Like I mentioned previously, we can get caught up in making things "Perfect" for everyone else, neglecting our needs in the process. However, this tactic is one way to ensure that the holiday season becomes stressful, limiting our threshold of tolerance for even the smallest irritations. It's not about being selfish, if setting aside time for yourself means you'll be more present and attentive to loved ones.
Be Present. The stress of the holiday season can keep us stuck in our heads, yet there is a literal overload of sensory experiences at this time of year to enjoy! Take time to smell the rain... when it falls. Enjoy the aroma of plum puddings, roasts or seafood! Take in the magical Christmas displays or the simple beauty of our Australian bush. Engage with your surroundings! And connect with the people around you. Give them your full attention. Put the devices away and talk and play with each other.