Yes, you can get on with your family this Christmas!

By Gabisile Ngcobo
20 December 2016

Battle lines drawn? Here's how to avoid the annual festive family tension.

'Tis the season of joy and happiness - a time to be together with loved ones and enjoy each other's company, right? Well yes, that's the plan.

But the holidays can be a rather fraught time, says Stephanie Dawson-Cosser, a relationship coach from Johannesburg. Relationships are complicated at the best of times and the pressure of Christmas being a time of togetherness can be enough to send things crashing down.

Christmas stress causes

Stephanie says we often have three generations under one roof over the holidays, which is never easy.

“Elderly grandparents often like their routines and their peace and quiet and get distressed with sudden noises such a squealing baby or toddler or meals not being served exactly when they want them. Pre-schoolers also like their routine and could be distressed if they're in an unfamiliar place," she says.

Cousins often need to reacquaint themselves, and adult siblings could have unresolved issues that are magnified when their elderly parents are around - in other words, Stephanie says, there could be a whole minefield to navigate.

How to family-proof your holiday:

1. If family members are coming to stay or you are all gathering at a holiday home, plan the accommodation and sort the sleeping arrangements out in advance, Stephanie says.

2. Ask everyone to contribute to mealtimes - both financially and physically. Nothing ruins Christmas like resentment if one person is stuck in kitchen alone. Especially if that person feels out of pocket.

3. Keep little kids fed and watered to eliminate low blood sugar mood swings. In fact, keep everyone well fed and watered - there's nothing like a full tummy and a little wine in the veins to ensure family harmony!

4. If you can, avoid voicing old resentments - but if you really have to have that honest conversation, take the person outside and tackle things one on one. The whole family doesn't need to know your problems. It will just make things awks.

Additional source: webmd.com; Work & Family Matters.

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