16 Tips To Keep The Peace This Christmas

16 Tips To Keep The Peace This Christmas

Christmas can be full of happiness and joy, but it can also be a time of year when tempers start to fray – especially when bringing together family who don’t love being in each other’s constant company. If the latter sounds familiar, take some of this advice from Britain’s top relationship and mental health experts. We asked them for their tips on how to keep the peace this year…

Harley Street psychologist Joanna Konstantopoulou says…

Look For Patterns In Advance
“It’s important to recognise and anticipate what is likely to trigger your anger and will cause a row. By taking the time to figure out exactly what it is that is making you upset, it becomes possible to make progress. Look at the big picture and identify the core sources of what makes you lose control so that you can communicate about it more clearly.”

Make Sure No One Leads The Conversation
“The Christmas period can be difficult when it comes to making decisions and plans. Make sure everyone practises the art of listening. Ensure the same person isn’t always dominating the conversation and, when making plans, be careful that everyone has their say.”

Take Some Time Alone
“Being aware of your thoughts and emotions can help you deal with negative feelings and prevent a fight with your partner. If you are feeling anxious, self-conscious, angry or stressed during Christmas, mindfulness can help you consider your thoughts and focus elsewhere. Take a break from any tension that might build up during the Christmas festivities by going for a short walk in the fresh air. During this time, choose to seek out the positives and push negative thoughts away. Doing diaphragmatic breathing can also help you to calm down and instantly relieve the tension caused by any stress, which in turn can help avoid a fight.”

Hannah Martin, founder of working mothers network The Talented Ladies Club, says…

Let Go Of Perfect
“Families come in all sorts of dysfunctional shapes and sizes. It’s unreasonable to expect that you’re going to love being in the company of every single member of yours – or even that they’ll love everything you say and do. Don’t worry if you don’t like, or can’t stand to spend time with, some of your relatives. Letting go of expectations of perfection and harmony takes a significant amount of stress out of spending time with your family. You can accept that you’re all different people who just happen to share DNA and memories.”

Accept People For Who They Are
“Rather than feeling the pressure to enjoy an idyllic, fight-free Christmas, you can instead allow the holidays to be what they are. So, if someone does say or do something that annoys or offends you, you can just accept that’s what they’re like, then move on. If you need to, remind yourself of some of that person’s positive traits, or an occasion they’ve been kind to you. People are rarely all bad.”

Don’t Be Taken Advantage Of
“If there’s anything specific that irritates you – such as being expected to do the lion’s share of the work with little appreciation – then tackle that head on before it becomes an issue. If you resent being seen as the Christmas dogsbody, a simple solution is to draw up a list of all the tasks that need to be done, and the people who can help (remember to include children). Then assign the most appropriate tasks to everyone and share the list before the big day. Explain that you’d really appreciate their help to make Christmas run smoothly and that you’re looking forward to a fun festive time with them all.”

Kim Moore, senior lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at Birmingham City University, says…

Hold Onto Your Opinions
“Sometimes it can be better to bite your tongue than engage in solving longstanding family issues over the dinner table. Remember that many people are trying to outdo and compete with each other. Christmas is not a competition, so you can de-escalate tensions by showing your appreciation for everyone’s contributions – big and small.”

Don’t Fuel The Fire
“Intoxication is often an argument waiting to happen, so you might consider an alcohol-free Christmas this year. Families can have ‘ritual’ fights that always occur at Christmas – part of the family legend. You could defuse these by changing the Christmas venue or consider going out for dinner if somebody normally hosts at home. Finally, before the family gets together, try and resolve any outstanding issues so they are not being dealt with on the day. You might agree a truce with topics that are off limits before you all gather together.”

Recognise Where The Line Is
“Above all, if the disagreements become physical, you must keep yourself safe. Don’t be afraid to call for help even if this means calling the police to stop violence occurring. Unfortunately, domestic violence is known to increase during the Christmas period. Women’s Aid and Men’s Advice Line have advice you may find useful. If family fights are the norm at this time of year, consider making a plan B for the day, just in case.”

Clinical psychologist and self-help author Dr Tony Ortega says…

Remember Emotions Are Heightened
“The first thing to remember about the Christmas season is that all emotions are heightened and drama is at an all-time high. We are all more anxious about the various events we are invited to (and feel obligated to attend) as well as the presents we need to purchase (some of which we don’t want to actually purchase but feel obligated to do so). Therefore we pretty much all enter this season stressed out. If you are mindful of this, half the battle has been won.”

Choose To Be Right Or Happy – Not Both
“In any argument or conflict, in or out of the Christmas season, remember one thing: do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? Most of the time, we can’t have both. Each side believes they are right and they usually want to prove the other party wrong. Therefore the key is to prioritise your own happiness (which will come from not engaging the other person) over your need to be right. The sense of right is greatly influenced by the person’s state of mind at the time. Remembering the heightened sensitivity caused by the Christmas season can allow you to give folks a ‘pass’ for this one occasion. After the season is over, you can reach out to them and discuss the matter in a more civilised (and less heightened state) manner.”

Niels Eék, psychologist and founder of self-development app Remente, says…

Become Solution Focused
“A great way to stay calm and not lose your head when in a frustrating situation is to always focus on solutions. Instead of getting angry, try thinking about what you can do to help others find their inner festive spirit. A lot of the time, stressful situations can make us feel helpless and trapped. Always trying to think about possible solutions will not only keep you calm and rational; it will help you solve the problem at hand.”

Be Diplomatic
“Sometimes people can say hurtful things without noticing. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, put it out by answering with a diplomatic response such as, ‘Thank you for your opinion, I’ll think about it’ or ‘What did you mean by that? Could you explain a bit further?” Be understanding and listen to the other party. Remember: it’s always better to invite everyone’s opinions rather than potentially sparking a fight.”

Psychologist and hypnotherapist Nick Davies says…

Relax The Rules
“There’s a good saying to remember: ‘Rigid rules create angry fools!’ Get the family to loosen their expectations of what they want to happen and find a compromise for each of them – maybe even agreeing on a majority vote. After all, the festive season is about giving, so focus on the happiness you can create in others without looking to get it back.”

Be Grateful & Know When To Apologise
“Gratitude is important. If you look for all the smaller things that you appreciate – maybe seeing all the family together – and focus on how that makes you feel, you’re more likely to be happier. If things get too tough, take a few deep breaths and time out if you need to. Lastly, learn to say sorry and mean it. If you can nip something in the bud before it escalates, it’s easier to restore peace within the home. You could say something like, ‘Could I have a quick word? I know I appeared to jump in and said that, but what I really meant was… And I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.’”

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