How to avoid family arguments over Christmas, according to a psychologist

It’s not always the most wonderful time of year

Olivia Petter@oliviapetter1
Tuesday 19 December 2017 15:29

Everyone celebrates Christmas in their own way, however, the reigning ubiquity is who you spend it with: your family.

Cousins, grandparents, uncles...their mistresses: the festive period can be an overwhelming smorgasbord of close, and not-so-close, relatives.

While the idea is that everyone is having a wonderful Christmas time - all that bonding can create the perfect storm for family feuds.

So, how can you avoid tussles over turkey this year?

Psychologist Nicholas Joyce has outlined his top tips for keeping the piece at Christmas - and it’s not as complicated as you’d think.

Writing for The Conversation, Joyce explains that the holiday season can put the spotlight on family tensions, making it a stressful time for many people.

However, there are a number of ways one can avoid debacles at the dinner table this season and it begins with one simple word: acceptance.

According to Joyce, if we start cultivating an “acceptance mindset” towards family members whose habits/traits/basic presence may send us loopy at this time of year, we will be better equipped to cope with them.

“This mindset involves dealing with exactly what is true, what is factual and what is realistic rather than all the things that we wish could be,” he explains.

“It means I will go to holiday dinner knowing full well my brother is going to tease me or my mom is going to comment on my appearance.

“Entering with this reality makes us less reactive and more capable of choosing what if anything we want to do about this dynamic.”

Another mindset Joyce advocates is the “letting go process” which he outlines in three, easy-to-follow steps:

  • Notice and allow an experience to be there.

  • Decide if the experience is useful or not.

  • If useful, do something about it. If not, let it go.

This process can be hugely helpful when we are confronted with brash personalities and uncomfortable family dynamics over the festive period, he adds, as it enables us to address the situation in an appropriate and dignified manner without overreacting and causing a scene.

Taking all this into consideration, Joyce concludes that it’s important to decide ahead of time what issues might be contentious this year and assess whether or not they require your attention.

If not, Joyce advises letting the issue go and coming to terms with the fact that it may be out of your control.

In other words, if all else fails, keep calm and carry on.

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