As well as being the season of great joy and glad tidings to all mankind, Christmas can be a very stressful period. Families generally spend a lot of time together and all too often, tensions can rise. There is considerable pressure on people to enjoy themselves and many of us eat and drink to excess - something which can have consequences beyond the waist line. The strain of visiting relatives who do not really get on with and having elderly uncles, aunts or parents to stay can become all too much.
So what steps can you take to lessen the tension? Here are a few suggestions:-
- Plan ahead – for shopping, presents and food. If you know what you are doing or at least have a plan this will make life a bit easier. If you have a hectic schedule with lots of visits or visitors, make sure you also have some quiet time – both for yourself and also for you as a couple (if you are in a relationship).
- Make sure everybody pulls their weight. Give everyone a task to do and make sure that they do it, even teenagers. Not only does that spread the load but it will make sure everybody feels involved and is part of what is going on.
- Remember; it is not a disaster if everyone doesn’t have the best time ever. Be realistic. Children will have tears and tantrums but that doesn’t mean to say they haven’t enjoyed their day and enjoyed their presents.
- Make allowances. If somebody is preparing a Christmas lunch for the whole family plus assorted guests they will be feeling somewhat stressed so don’t take umbrage if for once they snap. Be understanding, patient and tolerant.
- If you are divorced or separated and have children, make sure the arrangements for the children to see the other parent are organised as far as possible in advance. Make sure the children know what the plans are as they may well be missing the absent parent over the festive period. In most cases, children will want to see both of you over the festive period.
- Don’t drink too much! There is nothing wrong with having a drink or even two but too many drinks can make some get argumentative or less tactful and this can cause all sorts of problems. Things can be said that are not intended or meant but then cannot be taken back.
The New Year will often see people focusing on their futures. It is no myth that Family Lawyers get an upsurge in instructions every January. People will often reflect on their lives and look where their relationships are heading especially after having spent a week or two with each other (and each other’s relatives!).
Some relationships come to a natural end and the festive period can highlight problems that are already there. If your relationship flounders over this period remember that if your New Year starts off badly it doesn’t have to be disastrous. Do get proper legal advice from a Resolution accredited solicitor (and many firms, like us, will be open between Christmas and the New Year). Be constructive and try and take a look at the longer term. Avoid Court if you possibly can. Consider alternatives such as mediation or collaborative law which are far better solutions for most people. They have far less emotional cost than litigation and will enable you to take control of your life once again.
I have, of course, focused on the negative side of the holiday period. Remember that for many Christmas is a time of great happiness as families are reunited and enjoy spending time together. May that be the case for you and yours and I wish everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas.
Stephen Root is a collaborative family lawyer at Berwins Solicitors