Is your family in post-Christmas recovery? Zelda West-Meads explores the causes of festive stress and what you can do about it.
"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.’
Making the New Year a fresh start for relationships
The first day we return to work after Christmas and the New Year is known by Lawyers as D-Day: Divorce-Day. According to the legal firm Irwin Mitchell, one in five married couples consider separating after Christmas while the relationships charity Relate experiences the highest demand for its counselling services. If there were lots of family arguments or unkind things said at Christmas the upset caused by them is likely to be still simmering under the surface come January. It can be tempting to just try and bury it and get on with the rest of your life but that way the anger and hurt lingers on.
Why are family gatherings so stressful?
Sadly, according to a new study, in many families the first argument starts just after 10.13 on Christmas morning – with four or five more before the day is over! This can happen in families who don’t see each other very often and are then all thrown together at Christmas.
Christmas is a big focus, but other times like Easter or weddings, funerals and other family get-togethers can also bring about pressure points which erupt into family arguments.
- Little things that trigger rows can be simple – perhaps even the preparation of lunch where the cook is trying to prepare a delicious meal and resents either doing all the work or other family members interfering too much.
- Couples often get into arguments because one or both has had too much to drink.
- It can be particularly difficult where there are stepchildren. A couple may have very different ideas about how to bring them up, and big decisions like how much to spend on Christmas presents, for example, can cause disagreements.
- If you have children from a previous relationship and your partner does not, you might disagree over the children’s behaviour. Or, if your partner does have children who are with the other parent for a big occasion like Christmas or a holiday, the presence of your children can cause resentment.
How to start repairing your family relationships
In the cold light of January try to make up with family members you have fallen out with, even if you think it’s not your fault or that they might not react well. Pluck up courage and talk to them, face to face if possible, or by telephone or letter. Here are a few tips.
Don’t restart the argument, wait until the person you need to talk to is in a good mood and then tell them that it is so nice when you do get on together that you would like it to be like that more of the time.
Tell them how much you regret the argument, that you are sorry if you upset them and that you love or care about them. It takes courage to say you are sorry.
Tread sensitively, no angry voices or unkind words, and make the person feel listened to and hopefully they might respond in a similar manner.
Ask what they need from you and say what you need from them.
If they don’t feel the same way, avoid another row and say, ‘I just wanted you to know that I am sorry we argued.’
Don’t be afraid to go to counselling if things seem really bad, it could make you happier in the long run.
Finally, make it your January resolution to think about how you would like life to be different, whether that includes drinking or spending a little less, or to have better relationships with the ones you love."