The Perfect Family Christmas
Christmas is knocking on our doors again with the promise of glad tidings and a festive season. This time of year magazines, newspapers and your favourite websites are usually full of time saving suggestions, ideas for a homemade Christmas, stress reducing advice and a good look at your health with do’s and don’ts for the festive season. Underneath it all lies the expectations often put on us by the family’s Christmas traditions.
Last year two of my client couples saw the pressure of the financial demands of Christmas collide with the worry of spending time negotiating the delicate equilibrium between family members. Finding a new way of managing Christmas was not only high on their list of priorities but essential for their sanity to remain intact.
An Idyllic Christmas
Thinking aloud about the ideas of an ideal Christmas, we went straight to the amazing idyllic postcard scenario of the log cabin in the mountains; snow so deep it reached the roof and the bells jingling on the horse drawn sleigh. A pretty picture, and at a closer look what it really signified was the peace and joy they wished they could experience at Christmas.
It was this, peace and joy, we then worked with to create a realistic aim of a Christmas which could be enjoyed by all. Initially looking at family traditions and expectations, what was important to whom and what the family rules were, gave us a good starting point.
Of course making changes to any of these were initially met with the dread of bigger family feuds or the fear of upsetting certain family members. We began looking at different ways of introducing the new ideas, how they might be received by various family members and what could be said to make it easier for the whole family to receive the changes positively.
Change for Peace and Joy
It was interesting work and both couples came to very different solutions; Linda and Peter decided that they were going to introduce a cost limit on presents; one for adults and a little more for children. As they weren’t hosting Christmas they decided that they were going to shorten their stay with the family from the usual three days to just one night and have some time just for them and their children.
Because they had made the choice and worked together on what to say and how to approach the rest of the family with their decision, Linda and Peter felt in control of their own lives. Their family accepted their decision saying that they had wondered about making changes themselves. Linda and Peter had a wonderful Christmas and although it didn’t snow, they had created a peaceful and joyous time very close to the postcard scenario we initially talked about.
A Bring and Share Christmas
Rose and Mike were the hosts of Christmas and traditionally would have to create two days of festive fun and food for the family, which usually consisted of ten people on Christmas day and up to 20 on Boxing Day. Mike had been made redundant earlier in the year and had taken a job which paid half his previous salary. They simply couldn’t afford to put on the big spread that was expected.
After talking about what would work for them and coming up with some creative solutions, we together made sure that the message of change was delivered positively with as much encouragement as possible. Their decision was to invite every member of the family to contribute an item of food from a list Rose and Mike had prepared and that this would be the present from the family to them.
With a little persuasion the idea went down really well and returning to counselling after Christmas they reported that it had been so successful the family had decided to take the idea on board as the new Christmas tradition.
If Christmas is stressing you out, there is always a solution. Thinking creatively but realistically and putting the message across positively will often enable other family members to express their thoughts and need for change.
If you have ideas of wanting something different for Christmas, why not test them out on the most approachable member of your family? You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
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