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Family Relationships: A time of Strain and Tension at Christmas

By Edited May 24, 2015 3 14

Christmas with the family

All family relationships suffer from problems with one family member or another, throughout their lifetime, although Christmas time puts more strain on families than at any other time of year.

If you have a wonderful happy family then you are one of the few, because there are so many others that do not share that warm and friendly family togetherness. Yes you would think that everyone could be on their best behaviour for that one day each year. But for some reason they can't. People with different personalities tend to clash whenever they get together.

If family members are talking to one another before Christmas, there is no assurance that during or after Christmas the relationship is still on friendly terms. Things can change in an instant and often over trivial matters. After a few drinks tempers will rise and things are said that would not have been said without the influence of alcohol.

There are many reasons for poor family relationships:


I often wonder if jealousy is the cause of many family disputes. One resents the older family member forcing their opinion on the younger sibling. One member may have done better in life than the other. Some go out of their way to goad the other because they have earned more than others. They may even pit one member against the other to force a reaction.

Supportive family

If you grow up in a supportive family then you could continue that through your own family life. If on the other hand your family is constantly bickering and fighting then you will probably continue this way. Some family members talk to each other but in actual fact they talk down to you. For some reason they think they are better than you. They are not. We all came on this earth as equal.


Families should respect one another whether they have done well or not. Some families have a good loving relationship while others flounder. Does your family support and respect you when you need it. Do you support your family members when they need help.


Do you take the time to listen to their problems or are you too busy talking about your own.

You may be amazed what you hear and even understand the problem if you take time to listen to a family member or friend. Yes by listening to a friends problem you may sort out your own. 

Family members not speaking

I hate to admit it but all family members go through stages of not talking for years on end, ours is no different. We may see some for a few years, then for some reason or another one of us upsets the other and then we play no talkies. I know this is stupid but it happens everywhere.

As a child I was so shy that I never said anything to anyone, just kept all the looks, whispers and taunts inside me. Then as I grew up I turned that hurt around by often lashing out at others to hide my own feelings. I knew it was wrong but I did not want anyone to know I was hurting and my way of not letting them hurt me. So outwardly I spoke out even though I cringed inside.

My brother was twenty years older than me and his last gift to me was when I was five years old. A tin of toffees. I still have that tin but of course the toffees were long gone. I used to wonder what I had done wrong and why he never gave me anything else. Little things like this build up inside all of us and often we cant find a way of dealing with it. So we take our insecurities out on others around us.

These days I look back and laugh. Life is too short to worry about who or what others are doing or thinking. If someone does not want to talk to me, then that’s their choice. I do not care one way or the other if they do not take time to ever come and visit us, although when I die they had better not be a hypocrite and show up at my funeral or they might be in for a shock, I might even come back to haunt them. 

Christmas- who do you invite?

People stress over deciding who to invite and who to forget. They think, they cannot invite Joe because he is not talking to Phillip and Janet. Then again if you have a large family you could get away with inviting him if you make sure they are sitting at opposite ends of the table.

Then you spend the rest of the day worrying the whole time if another member is going to start an argument because you invited them.

There is no simple answer to this problem. But rest assured; all families have this problem.

Tips to help you this Christmas

  • Look for the warning signs- try to head off confrontations by finding ways to defuse the problem
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol- Make sure everyone eats something to lessen its affect
  • Plan your table setting – sit people that are likely to argue away from similar minded people
  • Activities – organise some activities to keep the day more pleasant, being active could also reduce the alcohol intake
  • Credit Cards – If you cannot afford something, go without.
  • Presents and Gifts – Organise who buys what well before Christmas. You may decide to buy only for the children. Or you could plan it so each member only buys for one person and state the amount so everyone spends the same amount


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Avoid confrontations by planning different functions

Share Christmas on different days

Instead of trying to please everyone why not have a direct descendant family Christmas meal together on Christmas day.Then have the outlaws and others over on boxing day for another Christmas celebration.Better still, you can have the extended family Christmas celebration a week before at a neutral place of choice. Make it a picnic where you all take a plate and share the expense and work load. That way there is less work and stress for everyone and have time to enjoy the wonderful day together.

However you spend your Christmas this year I hope you all have a great day. Stay safe and please do not drink and drive.

As this is a family relationship article - I just wanted to remind you not to forget your precious family pets this Christmas too!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


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Dec 21, 2011 8:14am
Wow! This is a great article. I love the idea of celebrating Christmas with different parts of your family on different days. We are doing that this year, simply because everyone could not come at the same time. Cutting back on alcohol, and minimizing spending are all also excellent ideas! Very thoughtful article.
Dec 21, 2011 9:07pm
Thanks Deborah-Diane, Yes celebrating on different days with different parts of the family make it less stressful and still enables everyone a sociable time with less stress and tension.
Dec 27, 2011 11:42am
Sounds like this was a very cathartic article for you and thought provoking for your readers. Thanks for sharing your ideas!
Dec 27, 2011 7:53pm
Thanks divaonline, yes in a way I suppose it was. But it happens to a lot of families and that's what I was trying to say. Do not think your family is any different. It happens all over the world.
Personally I prefer to stay away from big family parties, etc and always have done dreading having to go to them.
We moved nearly a 1000 k's away to keep out of family disputes. They are all great people, but I just do not like big meetings of the family clans.
Dec 30, 2011 4:49pm
I can DEFINITELY relate to this article. It's nice to know that many other families experience the same things my family does. 2 thumbs up Eileen!
Dec 30, 2011 5:45pm
Yes it is a shame isn't it, but we all need to enjoy life and not spend time worrying about things that we cannot change. Thanks SincelelyT
Jan 1, 2012 8:17pm
This idea applies to all holidays! My favorite tips in your article are: 1) listen and 2) plan different functions.
Jan 1, 2012 11:17pm
aurora Windsor, thanks it looks like we are both on the same wave length with our ideas and thoughts.
Jan 3, 2012 10:26pm
Holidays, especially Christmas seems to bring out the worst in people with mental illness. My mother, a severe bi-polar sufferer has her worst outbreaks during the holidays because they are so stressful and drama filled. It always causes strain and tension at Christmas time.
Jan 3, 2012 11:37pm
Thanks cosmopinkice, yes I know what you are saying. I used to dread Christmas, having to interact with all the family in one place knowing what happens. For this reason I preferred to stay away altogether and do our own thing.
Jan 5, 2012 9:15pm
It's sad that so many families have problems getting along, this article is a nice wake up call to many to try to get along, it's a short time after all. Well written and helpful to me showing a nice article layout. I look forward to checking out your blog and getting my going. Cheers!
Jan 6, 2012 7:26am
Thanks healthy1chef, yes its a shame thats for sure, but we can't live life always worrying about family relationships that we cannot change.

Hope you get your blog going soon and will check it out.
Oct 5, 2012 9:44pm
Eileen,Sussie,my German shepherd pet enjoys Christmas as much as every one else in the family.
Oct 6, 2012 9:04pm
That's great Januarius, After all they are part of the family. At least our Titan is so much a part of it, he is spoilt although he does do lots of jobs for ustoo...
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