Holiday harmony hacks: How to cope with difficult relatives at Christmas for a peaceful festive season

Dec 11, 2023
Whether it's a lingering feud with an in-law or concerns about tableside arguments, experts share effective tips to keep Christmas Day peaceful and harmonious. Source: Getty Images.

While it’s natural for families to navigate disagreements from time to time, the holiday season can sometimes add extra stress, potentially sparking tensions. Whether dealing with spirited siblings or challenging in-laws, these hurdles might stand in the way of your dream of a peaceful and harmonious Christmas.

But imagine a Christmas where serenity triumphs as the family comes together for lunch. It might seem like a tall order, but the experts are here to share some helpful tips on gracefully managing “irrational” or argumentative family members, ensuring a joyous holiday season for all.

According to Phoebe Wallish, Executive Officer for Stepfamilies Australia, the festive period is the peak time for people seeking out help or support.

“It is the season of giving – so ‘give’ a little and be realistic about your expectations. Accept that it not always possible to please everyone, including yourself,” Wallish said.

“You may have to divide up your holidays or ‘your time’ with the kids.  It doesn’t all have to be on the one day, suggest options.”

Wallish insisted spending time together is far more important than spending heaps of money, with children more likely to remember special memories than a toy or gift.

“Keep hold of some of the traditions or ways, particularly those that some family members hold important to them, but also start to create new traditions,” she added.

It may be the first Christmas for step-families coming together, with added pressure on the parents or grandparents as they introduce new families to each other.

Wallish advised: “Offer time, support and understanding, particularly for stepchildren and stepsiblings, acknowledging at first that they have no shared family histories. Don’t pressure kids to feel or act in certain ways. Perfect families don’t exist!”

Meanwhile, author Kathy McCoy offered her advice on how to deal with “blended/extended family blues”.

When introducing family to a new spouse or partner, she advised you “insist on courtesy and respect”, but to take it slow – particularly with children – so they know they’re still as important to you.

Meanwhile, she said it’s important to agree on splitting time between different extended families.

“Agree together on when to spend time with each family, when to blend celebrations and how to carve out time for yourselves during the holidays,” she previously wrote in a blog for Psychology Today.

“Let family members know that you love them, want to be with them and are trying to work out a holiday arrangement that seems fair to all, including you.”

As you navigate the holidays this year, remember to embrace togetherness, and understanding to create lasting memories. Here’s to a joyous and harmonious Christmas!




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