How to make this Christmas the best ever!
The Christmas holidays are a wonderful opportunity for us to strengthen and improve our relationships and yet for many they can bring stress and anxiety. For some it can be more about surviving than enjoying the Christmas holidays.
The first thing to remember is that people think of Christmas in many different ways and there are often many competing expectations. For example people may use the following words to express their hopes for Christmas, family times, friends, relaxing, having fun, spirituality, charity, reflection, partying, staying in, going out, log fires, wintery walks, time alone, time with others, entertaining, being entertained. Remembering this means that you can be proactive and ask people what they are wanting to get out of Christmas and what they would like to do - you can then decide with those you care about how to ensure everyone can have a good time
Principle one - Examine yourself first
Priority number one is your well being. So it is really important that you know what you want to get out of Christmas. After all it is you who will have to manage whatever plans are made. Here are a list of questions to help you think about this:-
How are you?
How’s life for you at the moment?
What is concerning you at the moment?
How do you feel about family life?
What would you like to get out of Christmas?
Why do you think you want this - is this what you want or need?
Now take a moment to now think what you NEED from Christmas?
What do you not want to happen?
Thinking through how the family is at the moment what do you foresee?
In terms of current challenges what have you tried and what haven’t you tried?
Do you feel supported? Again, if not what have you tried and not tried?
How self critical are you? Yes difficult behaviours in the family may well be coming from the dynamic created by traits that you see as your own shortcomings but be kind to yourself. Don’t make yourself do things because you feel you should - find creative ways to achieve the same aims!
Principle two - Use a constructive and collaborative communication style
Avoid escalation of conflict by simplifying your communication. When you feel that conflict may arise use this four step way of ensuring you express yourself clearly and in a non confrontational way.
- State the fact/s
- Share your response to the situation - say how you feel and think (never say you make me feel / think because that will escalate conflict)
- Explain why this matters to you
- Share the problem you now have, ideally tell them what you want to do but if you are unsure ask them for their input
For example one of your family arrives late, this means you will be under pressure to get somewhere on time, this is something that you have said is important to you, you feel angry and stressed. It also means that it is unlikely you can fit in both of the things that were planned.
- I said we would need to leave at 9am but you have arrived at 9.45am
- I feel upset, angry and under pressure
- I want to be relaxed and easy going and being late means to me that I am failing but being late also means I end up under pressure
- Now that we are 45 minutes I do not think we can do what we had planned, I need help in deciding what to change. Do you have any thoughts?
Principle three - Maintaining boundaries
A constructive and collaborative style of communication does not mean that you now let others decide what happens. Particularly if you are clearly the one with the designated responsibility - for example the cook of the Christmas lunch! The key concern now is finding a new plan that works for everyone - including you. With the example above you may decide to take out one of the activities that had been planned. Before you do this double check with your motivations to ensure that this is the most practical solution - that the decision is not an outlet for your difficult feelings but an answer to the dilemma you face.
So you have said your piece and have invited help but it is now for you to decide what you need next. Don’t fall into the trap of expecting others to know what you want and to step in. If it doesn’t feel right then say so - in the best relationships people work together to ensure everyone is happy, it is merely wishful thinking that someone else can know you better than you know yourself. So avoid disappointment this Christmas, take responsibility for your own happiness whilst working with others to help them realise theirs!