‘Tis the season to be jolly may not be the best description of what holiday season is like for many families around the world. Spending days cooped up with close family members can bring up issues that have been largely bottled up or ignored through the year.
Thoughts of divorce, hating the mother in law, losing your temper with the kids or just a general sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life can bring a significant higher number of clients to seek professional help post-holiday season.
It also doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you left home. Families often have this annoyingly powerful ability to suck you right in to playing the same old role. So you may find yourself having familiar conversations from 20 years ago… The things your dad says when he is drunk, will likely be as annoying this year as they were when you were a teenager.
Top Tips to keep you sane this Christmas
Review your Expectations: What kind of Disneyesque idealized version of Christmas is playing on the TV screen inside your head? It’s not real and may be very far removed from what you know to be true from your experience over the years. The bigger the gap between your expectations and the reality that is Christmas in your family, the higher the disappointment. Yet expecting the worst will also make you miserable during the lead up. Keep expectations flexible, there is no way to predict the future.
Discuss Expectations: With your partner, your older kids, your parents and the rest of the family too. Imagine your mother in law expecting you to help out with the dishes and preparing the turkey while you sit and chat with glass of wine in hand thinking? Not a good recipe for a jolly Christmas, resentment will surely build.
Control what you can: Have some exit strategies in mind, different ways of getting some much-needed breathing space from the festivities. It may be offering to go shopping for more provisions, taking the kids for a walk on your own, a jog before everyone is up or making an excuse to have an early night with a cup of tea and your favorite book.
Aim for Good Enough: Christmas can be a stressful time for the perfectionist as it often involves juggling cooking, hosting and securing a thoughtful present for each person. Keep your standards at 80%, learn the power of delegation and quickly forgive yourself for less than perfect results.
What’s the point? Why do so many families around the world, Christian and non-Christian, choose to celebrate the holiday season together? Why are you putting yourself through the stress it creates? In challenging moments you can ask yourself about the real purpose of it all.
Perhaps it’s the magical look on your child’s face waking up on Christmas morning and rushing towards the tree to open the first present? Or feeling connected to the spiritual gifts of this time of the year? Perhaps it’s the belly laughter during a family game of Pictionary? Or maybe finding gratitude for time spent with your aging parents?
There can be so many different ways to find purpose in your choices this holiday season. For me, Christmas brings a sense of deeper and loving connection with my family, it offers me a time to reflect and prepare for a new year ahead and, if spent with my parents and three sisters, often involves drunken ABBA moves in the living-room after a few glasses of Port Wine.
How will you find purpose and meaning this Christmas? Please share in the comments below!
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About the Writer
Silvia Wetherell, Co-Founder of MumRadar, works as a counsellor and psychotherapist in an obstetric setting and has a special interest in maternal mental health. Originally from Portugal, she spent ten years in England and is now based in Singapore with her husband and two young children. Silvia is also a Postpartum Support International Coordinator and Co-founder of the support group Mindful Mums.
Silvia has the loudest laugh, loves swimming in the ocean and snuggling on the sofa with her two cats, Jaffa and Freddie.