Dealing with family conflict over the Christmas period

2018-12-27 06:00

WHILE Christmas is synonymous with presents and family celebrations, it could also emphasise family relationships that are experiencing tension, which could also have an impact on other family members and create a stressful environment for all.


• Be aware that Christmas is a busy time, everyone is under some form of pressure and is tired at the end of the year, therefore arguments can erupt easily.

• Try to keep emotions in check and be tolerant of each other so that harmony and happiness can prevail, especially for the sake of the children.

• Avoid topics that you know will result in arguments. Use distractions and talk about something else

• Be careful not to indulge in alcohol or drugs. Mixing difficult relationships and alcohol almost guarantees conflict.

• Always be gracious about receiving a gift (even if it is not what you had hoped for, or if you do not like what you were given).


• Focus on your children’s experiences of Christmas. Observe their happiness as they decorate the Christmas tree and open presents. Enjoying Christmas through the eyes of children may help take your mind off your own problems and stress.

• If possible, discuss any areas of concern with a family member before the festive season so that the issue may be resolved by Christmas. This reduces the chances that an underlying problem or recent disagreement will surface during your Christmas celebrations.

• Remember, occasional conflict is a normal part of every relationship. Be prepared for some issues to crop up but aim at using conflict resolution strategies that will help diffuse the situation and not perpetuate disagreement.

• Try to enjoy the festive season without any expectations as this can result in disappointment if your “perfect” or “ideal” Christmas day celebration does not become a reality.

• Endeavour to accept your dysfunctional family as they are, as there is no such thing as the “perfect” family. When problems arise, it is crucial to ask yourself, “Is this issue really important and worth fighting over?”

• Cautiously navigate through ongoing stressful familial relationships that are out of your control by employing strategies to minimise conflict when it arises.

• Focus on an individual’s positive qualities rather than their traits/characteristics that irritate you. This will enable you to find some common ground where you can develop respect for the person.

• Schedule a day of rest before Christmas. Forget last-minute shopping and “To Do” lists and pamper yourself to alleviate any underlying tension you may have. This will enable you to manage any issues that arise with a calm, clear and rested mind.


• Although easier said than done, try to be objective and not emotional when negotiating with others. Strong emotions or power imbalances are commonly experienced during family conflict as we are more closely involved in these relationships. However, in order to be able to communicate and reason effectively, it is important that emotions do not cloud your judgement with anger or resentment. This will enable you to listen and not merely react.

• Respect each other’s point of view. Everyone is entitled to their own feelings, beliefs and opinions. Agree to disagree when the issue cannot be resolved or when no common ground can be found. Remember, others are not required to always agree with you on everything.

• Communicate in a positive manner. The language and tone that you use when conversing with your family members can either assist or hinder communication. Communication that contains sarcasm or insults is disrespectful and is not conducive to reducing conflict. Clear, concise, open communication can limit confusion and misunderstandings.

• Negotiate and compromise. Paying attention, actively listening and trying to understand the other person’s point of view can greatly facilitate negotiation and assist in resolving the pressing issue. Remember the objective is to “resolve the conflict, not win the argument”.

• Devise as many solutions to the problem as possible. This will assist both parties to settle on a solution that is acceptable and comfortable for those involved. Once the solution is determined — stick to it! Even draw up a contract, if necessary.

SAPS would like to wish the community a safe festive season and many memorable moments with family and friends.

— Supplied.


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