It can be a time filled with joy and happiness for families, but every year many parents exhaust themselves emotionally and financially trying to organise the “perfect” Christmas Day.
As a result, Christmas-time becomes all work, worry and bills.
Christmas is a challenging time for many families, and often parents have a sense that they want to do things differently, but are unsure about how to go about it. Often it is just easier to continue doing things the same way, because that is what has always been done.
However, changing things around can often bring back the fun factor, save you time and reduce the strain on your wallet.
Why does Christmas often cause stress?
Christmas is traditionally seen (and portrayed in the media) as a peaceful time of giving and receiving, where families come together, end their quarrels and celebrate.
However, the expense of buying gifts, the pressure of last minute shopping, and the expectations of family “togetherness” can all combine to undermine our Christmas spirit.
Some of the common issues that can cause family members stress over the festive period include:
- Finding the money and the right present to give people;
- Disagreements over whose house people will gather at for Christmas;
- Separated couples arguing over who has the children on Christmas Day;
- Siblings bickering;
- Knowing that “difficult” family or friends are coming, who are likely to cause arguments;
- Disagreements about what activities to do/what and when to eat on Christmas Day;
- Family members’ excessive alcohol intake which can sometimes lead to violence;
- Feelings of bereavement and the first Christmas without a loved one.
Tips for Surviving Christmas
- Budget for Christmas – Christmas does not have to be a financial headache if you plan ahead. Work out a rough budget as early in the year as possible and plan to save a certain amount each week. Discuss the day’s budget with children, and don’t promise overly expensive gifts.
- Presents – If you have a large family or lots of friends to buy for change the way that you give presents. Ideas include only buying presents for children, doing Secret Santa (where each person draws the name out of a hat and buys a single present for that person), and setting a limit on the costs of presents.
- Christmas Shopping – According to a recent study, 60% of Australians dislike Christmas shopping. Reduce your stress by making a list of the presents you need to buy before you go; buy a few generic extras like chocolates in case you have forgotten someone; do your shopping early to avoid crowds; and consider buying presents over the internet.
- Christmas Day Activities – Think about previous years and what you learned, and come up with constructive changes for this year. Talk to children about what they would like to do and try to keep things simple. Create a timetable for the day’s activities (eg 8am – open presents, 9am breakfast with grandparents etc).
- Christmas Dinner – Make a list of food and ingredients needed and buy as much as you can as early as possible. Make dishes the day before to reduce time spent in the kitchen. On the day itself, get children and other adults involved and delegate tasks, so you don’t have to do it all yourself. Otherwise, simply have a buffet lunch where everyone serves themselves. If you are eating out then make sure you book well in advance.
- Relationships – Encourage all family members to be tolerant of others on Christmas Day. If there are unresolved conflicts in the family, make an agreement with all concerned to put the conflict on hold for the day, however don’t expect miracles – if two family members always bicker, it is not likely to be different just because it’s Christmas. Try to organise family activities to reduce the opportunity for arguments. Limit the availability, timing and amount of alcohol if you know it creates conflict, and avoid triggers – for example, if you know sports is a touchy subject in your household, don’t talk about it and steer conversations away from it.
If you are worried about this upcoming Christmas time and how your family is going to survive, please think about booking an appointment with me and we can ensure that your Christmas runs as smoothly as possible for all involved!
Author: Ashley Cooper, B Psych (Hons), M Psych (Clinical), MAPS.
Brisbane Psychologist Ashley Cooper has clinical psychology training, and works children, adolescents and adults. She is passionate about helping individuals to overcome their mental health issues and improve their quality of life.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Ashley Cooper try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.