Your teen wants to sulk in her room, your mum insists you’re cooking the turkey wrong, and you just want to put your feet up. How can you make Christmas enjoyable for everyone?
Child and adolescent psychotherapist Rachel Melville-Thomas says that the moment children finish school for the Christmas holiday, their routine goes out the window — and this can be overwhelming for them.
Rachel advises sticking to bedtime routines, saying: ‘Younger children need their sleep and this helps them manage the ups and downs of the rest of the day.’
Rachel also advises against too much anticipation about presents.
‘Many children say the thing they’re most looking forward to about Christmas is the presents,’ she says. ‘It’s important to then ask them: “And what else?” and talk about other good things about Christmas.’
Psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin says that involving your teen in the fun is all about compromise.
She says: ‘Your teenager will have less interest in being with other adults. Talk to them before a family gathering, explaining what your expectations are and even negotiate a pact with them. For example, agree that if they sit with the family for Christmas lunch and help clear up, then they can go back to their room.
‘Your teenager may find it hard to understand the impact of their behaviour and how it makes others feel, so help them by talking them through how being upstairs makes Granny feel ignored or sad, for example.’
Drunken relatives who want to party
We all know someone who won’t get the hint — you want to go to bed, they want to stay up all night.
What can you do?
Dr Rudkin says: ‘However clear you make your expectations, some people have so much fun or get so drunk they forget. Line up one of your guests as the stooge, so that once it gets to an allocated time, they can make moves to leave and get everyone else to do the same.’
Relatives you dislike
We all have that relative or family friend we have to see at Christmas. But what if you really can’t stand them and dread having to spend time with them?
Dr Rudkin says: ‘Get support from other family members during the visit and then ensure a treat is waiting for you after.’
Sometimes focusing on the bad things about a person can make you angry. Instead try to focus on the positives about them before they arrive.
If you have elderly relatives, it can be difficult balancing their needs with younger children or teens. But charity Contact the Elderly says it’s important to include them.
Spokesperson Meryl Davies says: ‘If you see a lonely older person at Christmas, take the time to talk to them. For older people who have no one, Christmas can feel incredibly empty.
‘Inter-generational family time can be hugely beneficial for both parties. If you’ve invited an older relative for lunch, plan activities that are inclusive for all generations.’
Get Granny or Grandpa to play charades with your children and see their faces light up.
Rachel Melville-Thomas says: ‘It’s important to look after yourself and ask what kind of Christmas you want. Is it a quiet or a busy one? Decide, then make plans to ensure that happens.’
And if cooking has you stressed out, there is an answer.
‘Outsource,’ Rachel says. ‘If you can’t cook or don’t enjoy it, buy ready-prepared Christmas food. If you are less stressed, this filters down and calms your children too.
‘Be mindful. In the midst of the chaos of Christmas, pay attention to all the joy, love and hope it brings. Remind yourself that there are people who would do anything to be relied upon. Don’t place too much pressure on yourself. And remember, it’s your Christmas too!’
Edited by Julie Cook
For more information, visit contact-the-elderly.org.uk