Lots of people talk about the joy of being with family over the Christmas break, and if you have a lovely, warm, loving family, who you see eye to eye with, I’m sure that can be true. But let’s be honest, there is tension in most people’s families, and some families seem to see Christmas as an opportunity for outright war.
If your family isn’t at peace with itself, the extra stress of expectations can be tinder to any potential argument. Those expectations don’t even have to be unrealistic, they just have to not mesh perfectly with what actually happens.
We also have a culture that is obsessed with blame rather than understanding. Blame is a destructive thing, self awareness, as well as taking responsibility for one’s own actions and the consequences of those actions are the positive way of approaching things when they go wrong. Being able to say “it was me and I apologise” is just about the healthiest and most grown up thing you can do, if it’s true.
Being aware that none of us is perfect is a really good starting point I find, especially when spending time with other people who you are not going to be able to escape from for a while.
We tend not to have to spend extended time with other people, so we have lost many of the skills our forebears developed through communal living. I can remember days before central heating and computers, when we spent most of our winters in the living room together trying not to fall out. It was there that we learnt the skill of keeping our mouths shut.
So, if your family is one of those dreadful toxic experiences, give yourself permission to avoid them. Christmas alone can be a joyous, peaceful, fun experience. If you work at making it that way. And many people who have families will envy you the opportunity to be peaceful.
Also bear in mind that whilst you may enjoy the hurly burly of your family interactions not every member of your family will necessarily agree with you. It may seem like gentle teasing from where you are, but the person being teased may find it to be far more challenging and unpleasant than that.
Be gentle to those around you when you know they are under pressure. They may lash out, but it probably has nothing to do with you. Lots happens in other peoples lives that we will never know about, these things are often in their minds when they are unhappy or under pressure.
Christmas and the new year put us under huge pressure, we need the people who care about us to be just a bit more understanding of our difficulties.