How to not be prickly over Christmas and avoid rows with family and friends around the dinner table

How to not be prickly over Christmas and avoid rows with family and friends around the dinner table

Not only has the build-up gone on for months, but the big day itself can be full of pitfalls – overexcited kids, interfering in-laws, copious amounts of alcohol, a huge meal to make and a shed load of clearing up afterwards.

Bah humbug! The good news is that whether you’re dealing with a drunk and obnoxious guest or approaching the festivities newly single, you can still make it through the big day without it becoming an EastEnders Christmas special.

The one with the… disastrous lunch

When the turkey’s dried out and the gravy’s gone lumpy despite all your hard work, it can feel like the end of the world.

And it’s easy to forget it’s just one day out of 365 – just one Christmas out of many – and that, like every other day, it will be over in 24 hours.

Life coach Carole Ann Rice says: “The festive season is about goodwill to all people, and that includes you.

Be kind to yourself, and remember your family love you regardless of what goes wrong.

Creating a plan beforehand will help you approach the day with a clear mind.

Delegate tasks so everyone has something to do, and try not to drink too much as this makes it harder to remain in control of emotions.”

Although once the Christmas dinner is eaten and everyone is asleep on the sofa, treating yourself to a large Baileys is definitely OK!

The one with the…overexcited kids

They probably woke up at 4am and immediately started scoffing chocolate, so it’s no wonder that come 10am, most children are wound up like a toy.

Mum blogger Alison Perry recommends starting your coping strategy before the day itself.

“By building some calm activities into your routine at the start of December, you’ll help them manage all the emotions that hit them on the day.

"Sitting Still Like A Frog by Eline Snel (£11.99, Shambhala Publications) has lots of brilliant meditation activities for children, and even includes an audio CD. Pick one before bedtime each night, and choose a special one for Christmas Day.”

The one with the…difficult in-laws

While Christmas with your own family can be tricky, spending the day with your partner’s relatives is more unfamiliar territory, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“We generally tolerate our partner’s families much better than we do our own because there’s none of the history,” says psychologist Elie Godsi.

But what if your mother-in-law can’t keep her views about how you’re doing everything wrong to herself? Elie recommends proceeding with caution.

“Decide beforehand with your partner what you are both prepared to tolerate and where the red lines are.

"These are areas where you must, as a united front, be assertive and challenge what is not acceptable to you. Never criticise, stay as calm as possible and don’t blame – stay adult.”

The one with the…rubbish gift

On the receiving end of another jumper you’re never going to wear? Opening a gift you don’t like can be awkward, but it’s not worth turning it into a bigger issue and it’s down to the recipient to avoid that happening, says etiquette expert Jo Bryant.

“It’s always the thought that counts, so presents should always be received with enthusiasm.

"If you’re given clothing in the wrong size or a child is given a duplicate present, it’s acceptable to ask for the receipt.

"But generally the rule is not to. If your children consistently receive unwanted gifts, you could suggest to friends and family they’d like a voucher or money towards an item.”

The one with the… family argument

No matter how old you get, there’s something about returning to your parents’ home that can bring out the petulant teenager in you.

“When we’re children, we experience frustrations and conflict with our parents, as we’re developing from dependent beings into independent ones,” explains Elie.

“So when we go back home, that love and conflict and all those old patterns inevitably emerge.”

How can you handle this frustration as an adult when stomping up to your bedroom isn’t an option?

“Anticipate what the greatest sources of conflict and frustration may be, then choose to rally against them or ride them out and accept it.

"Knowing which of these strategies to adopt is important. If it gets too much, then take time out and go for a walk until you return to your ‘adult’ self,” Elie suggests.

The one with the… single girl

Christmas can be tough when you’re going through a break-up, and can easily result in tears and drunken texting you’ll later regret.

We-Vibe’s relationship expert Dr Becky Spelman says: “Newly single people often dread Christmas because they worry they’ll be subjected to pitying glances all day.

When a relative asks about your split, say something like: ‘There have been lots of changes recently and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings.’

You’ll take ownership of the conversation, introduce positivity and firmly close the subject without any awkwardness.”

The one with the… merry guest

There’s something about the stress and/or excitement of Christmas that can lead to excessive boozing – well, wine, Quality Street and Michael Bublé are a perfect party combo, after all! But it’s not so much fun when you’re stuck with a friend or relative who’s had one too many.

“What you don’t want is their behaviour disrupting your event,” says etiquette expert Jo.

“Don’t embarrass or challenge them or suggest they’re drunk. Instead, offer them some coffee or take them to a quieter room.

"If their other half is present, lean on them to handle the situation. Don’t leave wine bottles on the table during the meal, have plenty of water on offer throughout the day and create a tea/coffee break when the meal’s over.”

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From eating porridge to going to sleep 15 minutes early – how to get back on track after Christmas

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