Posted: 03 December 2019

Dealing with conflict at Christmas

For many of us, the best thing about Christmas is spending time with our family. 

But if you're a young person coping with family problems, Christmas can be a very difficult time.

We asked one of our well-being practitioners for her top tips for dealing with family conflict at Christmas.

Top tips for dealing with conflict at Christmas

In my experience, it all comes down to planning ahead. Think and plan for the situations or people that you foresee being difficult over the Christmas period.

Once you identify the points that might be challenging, you can plan to mitigate the level of disruption and confrontation.

Call on a friend

Ask a friend to call you at a certain time of the day that you expect to be problematic. This will give you a natural reason to leave the room and take a break from the intense or potentially confrontational situation.

Set an alarm

Match your alarm tone to your ring tone and set your alarm for a certain time of day. Needing to take a call gives you a natural, legitimate reason to leave the room.

Plan breaks

Make plans to see friends or people outside of your family to give you a break and time out from the intense environment.

Reach out

Share your worries about the upcoming challenges with a trusted family member - they may be able to help you get out of difficult conversations. For example, you and your trusted family member could agree on a code word to use when you want some time out or need them to support you.

Identify conversation topics

Create a list of “safe conversation topics” that you can refer to when things get awkward or difficult. Similarly, create a list of conversation topics that you feel it might be best to avoid when with family over Christmas.

Be reasonable

If you are in a confrontational situation with a family member, reason with yourself about why you want to stay calm, and contemplate the consequences of any action that you might take.

Do a chore

If you anticipate being in an intense environment, plan jobs or chores that you could pick up to give yourself a natural reason to get out of the situation. For example, stacking the dishwasher, taking the bins out or walking the dog.

Communicate openly

If you are able to be transparent about the confrontation that might occur with the people you have difficulties with, try for an open conversation about how you can best meet one another’s needs.

If you're a parent, this might be saying, 'Son, I would really appreciate it if you could help with the washing up on Christmas day'.

If you're a young person, you could try saying, 'Mum, it would be really great if you could allow me some time to myself over Christmas day'.

Planning ahead in this way can really help you to avoid conflict from happening on the day.

It's important to understand that Christmas can be a difficult time for many children and young people. For them Christmas is broken, but their spirits don't have to be - show them you're listening. 

Pledge #IHearYouth

By Practitioner
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