My parents got divorced in 1993. I was in my late twenties at the time.
Even though I was an adult when they divorced, Christmas has never been the same since.
For families affected by divorce, Christmas can be a difficult time of the year and with the divorce rate what it is, that can work out to be a lot of people.
Thankfully some marriages end in a decent or at least civil manner and people are still able to spend time together.
Then there are the rest of us.
For years, I found myself in a ‘pick a family member’ scenario. Basically, every Christmas I knew that I was going to upset someone.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I started to dread Christmas.
I have a hinting suspicion I’m not alone.
Despite all of the media advertising showing smiling happy families opening massive piles of Christmas presents (hence the reason for the advertising) and all the television programs showing us how to have the ‘Best Christmas Ever’ (no pressure there!), Christmas can be downright hard.
This isn’t even taking into account the financial expense and stress on the household budget that Christmas creates. One of my pet peeves is when advertising promotes families having lavish Christmas meals, which in reality far too many people can’t afford.
For more on surviving the financial side of the silly season, read my post, How to Not Go Broke over Christmas.
Here are 6 tips for making Christmas more enjoyable or at least less stressful.
Don’t feel pressured
This one is no doubt the hardest.
People can put a lot of pressure on us about where we should spend Christmas (particularly if there are two or more households involved), how much we should be spending, what we should be eating and how things are supposed to look and go according to plan.
It can be a lot of pressure.
People could find themselves running all over the place trying to keep everyone happy. Christmas breakfast here, lunch there, Christmas dinner somewhere else.
Then there is the interesting question, what if everyone expects us to be in the same place for Christmas lunch?
Try not to feel pressured to keep everyone happy. Most likely it will make some people happy and you completely miserable.
One year I tried to visit both parts of my family in the one day. Bear in mind they live quite a distance from each other. Let’s just say, I’ll never do it again. While it seemed to keep people happy, I was completely miserable and exhausted by the end of it all.
There is an exception to this. If you are divorced with young children, you need to do what is best for the children. In other words, you might have to put your personal feelings aside and do what’s best for your kids. Naturally, each family is different and what is good for the children can vary depending on the family dynamic.
Related post – Know You Own Pressure Points
Make visits short
If you don’t get along with your family and you decide to visit them for Christmas, keep the visit short.
Don’t sign up to spend weeks with a family that you don’t get along with.
Stay off forbidden subjects
If there are topics that you know will reignite an old problem or for that matter create a new one, avoid them all together.
If your family have completely different values, morals and beliefs to you, stick to topics that won’t rock the boat.
Yes, that might mean you are talking about trivial, boring things but it sure beats the alternative of fighting or bickering.
Related post – How to Have a Two-Way Conversation
Choose your own family
Some of your friends may not be able to spend Christmas with their families.
Either they have to work over Christmas and can’t get to visit family, live too far away from them (overseas or interstate for instance) or they simply choose not to spend Christmas with them.
Gather friends together and have your own celebration.
Remember family doesn’t always have to mean relatives. Sometimes we need to choose our own families.
Related post – How to Survive Being the Black Sheep of the Family at Christmas
Do your own thing
Does Christmas seem like a good time for an overseas holiday? Book something exciting over the Christmas break with a partner, friend or group.
Christmas doesn’t have to be the same thing every year, mix it up a little.
Related post – Why Do We Try to Hard to Conform?
Take time to decompress
If you do visit your family and they are the dysfunctional kind, take time to decompress when you get back home.
Have things planned that relax or invigorate you (whichever one you need the most).
I normally lock myself in the house for a day with my favorite DVD box set and veg on the couch. Then I’m ready to head out and face the world again.
In case you were wondering, this year I’m going to spend Christmas with my Mum. And you know what, I’m actually looking forward to it.
I hope you have a Christmas planned that you are looking forward to as well.
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