Coping with Christmas is not at all easy. Our attitudes to Christmas are stories we tell ourselves based on a variety of influences, especially, childhood experiences, media and expectations of family and friends. Struggling to make our story fit into the actual reality of our life leads to disappointment.
Stress, anxiety and depression can often be triggered by the holiday season, as expectations of merriment bring our own lives sharply into focus, and this isn’t even thinking about the myriad difficulties that celebrating Christmas while an international pandemic rages on in the background. Make no mistake, coping with Christmas is not so easy as TV commercials and slick marketing departments of powerful supermarkets would have us believe.
Coping With Christmas: Four Areas To Consider
Coping With Family Expectations
Figuring out where and how to spend Christmas often begins early, and tension between couples is often high. In an attempt to cope with Christmas many couples agree to spend alternate Christmases with each set of parents. This is reasonable enough on its own but when children are involved it’s often problematic as one set of grandparents are often more popular. The decision about who to please; the children, parents or parents in law, has to be considered very carefully indeed.
A friend of mine had to choose either his wife’s parents, one of whom is an alcoholic, (not in recovery, but drinking to excess everyday), or his own parents, neither of whom he or his wife or children are at all close to, but who do offer a semblance of ‘normality’. Coping with Christmas had become a nightmare, a no win situation for everyone.
For this particular family, after many years of stress, both during the period leading up to the festive season and at Christmas itself, they made a decision that family Christmases would now consist of them, their children, and visits from friends during the holiday.
This re-evaluation of family relationships during the festive season has had a massive positive impact on the rest of their lives. Christmas is no longer about the expectations of others, but the happiness of their own family.
Christmas has the potential for change, not simply upholding potentially worn out traditions.
Your own situation may not be the same as this, but it’s always worth considering whether you want to continue to attempt to meet the expectations of others, or whether you want to re-define the holiday period to be more in keeping with your own wants and needs as well as those of people closest to you.
To read more about coping with expectations and family relationship problems in general click here. There are many more interesting articles: Read more articles about coping with Christmas and relationships just here.
Overspending: Coping with Christmas Financially
The desire to please friends and family is laudable, but often becomes a source of stress not to mention increasing financial outlay as we struggle to find the right Christmas presents and gifts.
It may be useful to agree to a ‘children only’ rule for Christmas. Helping children to be happy with one special gift, or a few good ones, and maybe some other small treats is a good plan and a good way to help them cope with Christmas as well. Quality is better than quantity and we can help them to see the festive period as a happy family time.
It is natural for children to want to compete with their friends for the latest item, often an expensive phone or computer game or similar. If you are able and happy to afford this, then of course you will want to please them, but if finances are an issue, as they are for most people, consider putting away an amount you can afford each month, so that you don’t take a huge hit at Christmas. Or, if like me you forget to do that, ring fence an amount which you can safely spend and make sure you stick to it.
For adults, consider home-made gifts. Many people (myself included) love to receive home made biscuits, jam, chutney, cakes or pickles. I had a friend who was a professional musician who returned home after a gig late on Christmas Eve to find a pot of home-made jam on his doorstep from a neighbour. He always maintained that it was the best Christmas present he ever received.
Coping With Christmas and Children’s Behaviour
Coping with children’s behaviour at Christmas is a major part of coping with Christmas as a whole. Children’s behaviour at Christmas will largely depend upon their expectations.
The biggest challenge is always the differing situations of their peer group. If many of your children’s friends are going to receive a particular item, it is understandable they will want it too. In these situations it maybe possible to save for a special gift, or delay the present until a birthday.
Whatever your children receive and whoever it’s from it is important to impress upon them the importance of gratitude and appreciation.
Gratitude and appreciation are the magic ingredients at Christmas which balance out the seasonal indulgences. Saying “thank you” to someone who has bought a gift in the ‘wrong’ colour or brand is an important way of learning appreciation. The phrase “it’s the thought that counts,” is a cliche for all the right reasons.
“Thank you” are two important words, whether in person or on a card. Try and make the writing of thank-you letters a joy rather than a chore. Perhaps creating a post Christmas thank-you ritual, complete with nice drinks and snacks and writing old fashioned letters that go in the post could be an enjoyable way of keeping the Christmas spirit alive.
As a general rule, try to involve children in choosing and making gifts for others as a valuable way for them to experience the pleasure of giving as well as receiving. Home made gifts and cards from children are usually very special and tend to be kept and remembered far longer than expensive presents which are bought with little thought or imagination.
Encourage your children to put their own thoughts into their gifts, maybe drawing a picture, making a decoration or helping them to make some jam or pickles. All of these little ideas do make it easer coping with Christmas.
Coping with Christmas Food and Cooking
Food and cooking is a massive part of most people’s Christmas. Traditional Christmas dinner can either be a joy to prepare or a tremendous strain. Lets not forget that in our modern world (rather than our unconscious and romanticised version of how Christmas should be) families include vegetarians, vegans, people living with food allergies and/ or intolerance and people whose food choices are dictated by religion and belief.
The more complicated the demands of preparing Christmas food the more we need to plan in advance to ensure a happy overall experience.
These are some useful questions to ask yourself:
Does one person do the cooking in your household?
If there are multiple dietary requirements is it possible to plan one meal that can be enjoyed by everyone, or for others to contribute vegetarian or vegan options?
How much money do I want to spend on Christmas food?
How much time do I (or whoever’s cooking) want to spend in the kitchen?
If possible, I suggest that an answer to all of this is to prepare one meal which can be prepared and enjoyed by everyone.
In a progressive and non-traditional world we don’t have to stick to the romanticised fantasy version of Christmas. We can prepare a meal that can be enjoyed in harmony by the whole family and can make for a happier occasion than striving to please everyone.
These are some important things to remember in order to cope with Christmas. You can read more about how we coped with Christmas in our first year in Thailand in our book:
Thank you for reading and I hope that you cope with all the ups and downs of the festive period this year. Happy Christmas.