Managing family conflict at Christmas

A couple after an argument annoyed with each other


Christmas usually brings together people you don’t otherwise see very often.  You might look forward to seeing some of these people with whom you would otherwise have little contact, and who you like to see; but others might have values and behaviours very different to yours and this can cause conflict.

When you think about the people you will see this Christmas, you can probably easily identify those you are looking forward to seeing and those you are a little reluctant to see.    By following the suggestions below you should be able to enjoy the company of those you really like and minimise the effects of those you don’t.

Pick your Battles: The behaviour of people at your Christmas function is likely to be the same this year as it was last year.  There are probably lots of habits and behaviours that annoy you; that aren’t worth fighting over.  Be prepared to be generous and forgiving towards those behaviours that annoy you.

If you are expecting behaviour that you can’t ignore because it challenges  your core values; think about communicating with that person before Christmas.  When you do this be respectful, be prepared to listen and have an alternative behaviour they could consider. 

Have an exit plan: Sometimes it is wiser to exit gracefully than it is to fight a battle you can’t win or that you’d rather not fight.

Surround yourself with people you love: it is hoped that most people you have around you on Christmas day are those you love most.  Be with them; rather than those likely to annoy you.

Be generous and gracious: Christmas is a time of giving; and that isn’t just about giving gifts.  Consider how you can be generous in your actions, in your manners and with your kindness.

Invite an orphan: A lot of people spend Christmas alone: they may be living away from family and would be welcoming of being included in a family gathering.  Consider including an acquaintance or colleague who would otherwise be alone.   A lot of people are better behaved around a stranger.

If you need additional strategies for managing conflict at Christmas, book a session with your EAP counsellor. They will help you think of things that can work and that you may not have already tried. 


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