How to avoid those Christ­mas ar­gu­ments

Ther­a­pist Jane Barn­field Jukes tells us how to avoid those fam­ily ar­gu­ments that al­ways seem to spring up at Christ­mas

Cotswold Life - - CONTENTS -

Christ­mas gets a bad rap (ex­cuse the pun!), doesn’t it? In­ter­est­ing, if a lit­tle un­fair. Like road rage the anger that spills out in fam­ily ar­gu­ments in this highly charged fes­tive sea­son has been there all year long, sim­mer­ing un­der the sur­face. Christ­mas, and the added stress it brings, is merely the cat­a­lyst to bring this anger into the fore. Be­ing aware of this and un­der­stand­ing the causes can go a long way to less­en­ing the im­pact of the of­ten in­evitable con­flicts that arise.


Don’t wait un­til Christ­mas Day to ad­dress the bub­bling is­sues within your fam­ily or friend­ship groups. Try to sort through any re­la­tion­ship is­sues dur­ing the year. That way they can’t hi­jack you while you are try­ing to spread joy and cheer.


Ad­just your ex­pec­ta­tions now and try to let go of per­fec­tion.

Try to recog­nise symp­toms of es­ca­lat­ing stresses as they oc­cur. Headache, stom­ach ache and mood­i­ness are all signs that things are heat­ing up. Just like a pres­sure cooker needs a pe­ri­odic re­lease of steam so it won’t blow up, it is im­por­tant for you to ac­knowl­edge stress­ful sit­u­a­tions and try to defuse them as they arise, rather than hold­ing it in. Even­tu­ally you too will ex­plode with pent up stress if you don’t al­low your­self to gen­tly deal with each stress­ful mo­ment you en­counter.

Try to de­tach from the drama when it oc­curs. You will be far more use­ful as a non-judge­men­tal ob­server/peace­keeper than a ref­eree.

As ther­a­pists we of­ten re­fer to the ‘fan­tasy of fam­ily’. You aren’t in a Dis­ney Christ­mas movie – real life very rarely mea­sures up. Try to love the fam­ily you have, rather than the com­pletely unattain­able ‘ideal’ pro­jected onto our screens. They are not real life por­tray­als.

Don’t be afraid to re­think Christ­mas tra­di­tions. As hu­man be­ings we tend to be re­sis­tant to change. It may be that some of the things you are used to do­ing may not work for you any­more. Be hon­est with your­self and peo­ple around you. Think of new tra­di­tions that might be more ap­pro­pri­ate to your cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

With the ad­vent of Face­book, Oliver James’s death by 1,000 com­par­isons is be­com­ing more preva­lent in our on­line so­ci­ety. Try not to be taken in by the ma­te­ri­al­is­tic na­ture of over­shar­ing. Money, gifts and ex­pen­sive hol­i­days are like empty calo­ries, and your Christ­mas ta­ble is prob­a­bly full enough.

Be mind­ful of be­reave­ment and loss at this spe­cial time of year. It might be a good idea to raise a glass to ab­sent friends or take the time to re­mem­ber lost loved ones. Don’t gloss over grief that you or the peo­ple you care about might be feel­ing; ac­knowl­edge sad­ness in or­der to laugh.

If you are the con­duc­tor of your Christ­mas choir, be aware that man­ag­ing all the con­flict­ing needs can be drain­ing. Try to avoid ar­gu­ments by un­der­stand­ing the con­flict­ing wants and needs of those around you. Try hard to not overdo it. Take time for your­self and find those mo­ments of peace where you can.

What do we wish for? Love and for­give­ness ev­ery sec­ond of ev­ery hour would un­doubt­edly make the world a bet­ter place. How­ever, let’s just start with this Christ­mas sea­son.

This Christ­mas is your Christ­mas. You have the right to en­joy it as much as the ones you love.

Wish­ing you a peace­ful, lov­ing, con­flict-free Hol­i­day Sea­son!

‘Try to love the fam­ily you have, rather than the com­pletely unattain­able ‘ideal’ pro­jected onto our screens’

Christ­mas, and the added stress it brings, is the cat­a­lyst to bring anger into the fore

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