Staying at parents sounds like a good idea, but unless you work hard at it conflicts and stress soon arise. It is YOUR job to minimise the stress if you are spending Christmas.
Understanding the Conflicts that can arise at Christmas
These conflicts arise because you, your family and your parents have different expectations and take different views of the situation.
Parents will have memories of Christmases past, when you were a child. Although they acknowledge your adult status most of the time, it is easy at Christmas to enter a mental time warp and hark back to years ago. This is the time when the embarrassing photographs are brought out.
You will also remember past Christmases, but from the child's perspective, and it is easy to slip back into child mode momentarily.
Your partner is an outsider because he or she does not have the shared memories that you and your parents have, the shared rituals that every family has. There is confusion because if you are staying with parents their Christmas rituals will be different from the ones that have evolved in your own family. You are half expecting to revert to your parents' rituals, but your partner is half expecting your own family rituals.
If you have children they will be expecting your own family rituals to happen and will be confused if they do not. Children love rituals.
Preventing Stress at Christmas by Planning Ahead
Discuss the Christmas rituals your children expect with your parents. Most parents are mature enough to adapt to your own children's rituals, accepting that children take priority at this time.
Talk with your partner about how you remember Christmas as a child, so that he or she can understand the shared memories that you and your parents have.
Prepare your children to half expect things to be done differently at your parents' house.
Preventing Stress at Christmas by Compromise
Even with all the preparations there will still be times when you, your partner, your children and have different expectations. It is up to the adults to manage the situation, and if your parents effuse to make compromises then you will have to.
You are the common factor to both groups; you are your parents' child and you are the parent and adult in your own family. You are the only person with intimate knowledge of the way that the two groups think. You are the only adult who will sense a 'situation' developing soon enough to suggest a compromise. Your partner is not so attuned to your parents' non-verbal language as you are, he or she will not see conflicts developing until it is too late.
Give Everyone Breathing Space to Prevent Stress at Christmas
If you are staying with your parents, remember that they are used to having the house to themselves and that they may find the normal hustle and bustle of your family life stressful.
Try to fit in with their routine as much as you can. If they go for a nap in the afternoon, take the children for a walk or to watch a film in the afternoons. Try to give them space in their home at some point every day. Most people like their routine disturbed as little as possible, so fit in with the way they live and go out for at least a few hours at the same time every day.
The family needs time together, without your parents there, as well and these trips out provide that time for family bonding that every family needs.