How to cope with family arguments at Christmas


For many families, Christmas can bring a high level of expectation to have the perfect Hollywood-esque standard family Christmas.


Christmas can be such a magical time of the year filled with the sentiment of hope and good-will. However, it also comes at a time of the year when many of us are craving a break from the stresses of work, school, friendships, relationship – not to mention that we are approaching our second Christmas living with Covid.

The nights are long, cold, and dark and our physical, financial & mental resources can feel like there are being pushed to their limits.  All of this can add up to a recipe for a brewing argument.  

Christmas is a subjective experience and trying to avoid conflicts at Christmas are no different to avoiding conflict at any other time of the year. 


Manage expectations

For many families, Christmas can bring a high level of expectation to have the perfect Hollywood-esque standard family Christmas.  At this time of year, we are surrounded by TV adverts & Christmas movies which would have us believe that this is how every family interacts.

 If we are romanticising the idyllic Christmas with lots of laughter, togetherness, displays of gratitude and love, what happens when the reality of our expectations is not met? These are societal expectations that we may have internalised. Ask yourself – whose expectations am I trying to meet?  If this is not how your family typically interacts, you are setting yourself and those around you for a failure when they have not met the ideal standards.


Take the pressure off

In the same vein as managing our expectations, it’s important that we take the pressure off ourselves.  Christmas is meant to provide us with a break. To pause and reflect on the previous year and look forward to the year ahead.

If we are running around, trying to create the perfect Christmas and cater to everyone’s needs, we are sure to exhaust ourselves.  This can lead to feelings of resentment especially if you feel like you are the person who has been left to do all the organising, cooking, and cleaning.  Ask those around you for help.  You cannot do it all on your own.

Unfortunately, our families are not mind-readers. While you may like for them to offer to help, you could be waiting.  Assign tasks – even young children can help by setting the table.


Create Space & Resolve Conflict

After the excitement of Santa and the early morning adrenaline rush, energy levels may take a slump. Tensions may rise between siblings and parents.

Once you recognise this, create some space for yourself so that you don’t react. For your children, suggest a change of activity, a nap, some quiet time or walk. 

If conflict does arise, do not react in the moment or even that day. This does not mean that you are ignoring the behaviour but that you will address it at a time when everyone is calm. 

Do not threaten to take gifts away as this will add to the escalation.  Our words have power so be mindful of what we say. Do not make statements such as: ‘you’ve ruined Christmas’ or ‘you’re making Santa sad’.  Instead of calming your child, this will activate their stress response system and conflict is guaranteed.

Remember that Christmas is one day of the year. Instead of trying to get our families to ‘be perfect’ on this day, remind yourself of all the things that you like and love about your family.  Communicate this to one another.

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