Tag Archives: Family

Christmas family strain

16 Dec

How many films have been made all about the stress of family life over the Christmas period? Quite a few. Many of these films are comedies, and most end with everyone enjoying their family Christmas. But the reason we find these films so funny, is because we can relate to that Christmas family stress all too easily.

Family can be a real strain at Christmas

Family can be a real strain at Christmas

On a serious note, many of us actually get highly stressed and feel anxious about Christmas, and these anxieties maybe about one of the following:

  • A need to have everything run perfectly and for everyone to appreciate your efforts
  • A need for other people to show the manners that you expect them to have
  • A need for everything to be easy and comfortable

You may have just read that list and thought to yourself these are all reasonable expectations. But if you are feeling anxious about any of them, then something isn’t right…


What’s reasonable?

It is reasonable to want things to run perfectly. It is reasonable to want all family members to appreciate your efforts. It’s reasonable to want all family members to behave appropriately and it is reasonable to want everything to be easy and comfortable. Anxiety is, however, triggered when you transform your wants and desires into needs and demands. When this happens, everything HAS to be the way you want it or else.

This type of thinking is at the heart of anxiety and stress, and at Christmas time, this can be amplified. At Christmas you become anxious about family members who are not acting warmly towards one another; or family members you may have problems with; or family members who behave in a passive aggressive or discourteous manner; or family members who do not chip in and help or simply a family member you just don’t like very much.  It’s these scenarios that we find in many Christmas films, and they are scenarios we all relate to on some level.


How to manage those anxieties

If you find you are anxious or stressed about any of those family scenarios or issues, then how do you manage that anxiety? Well here are a few pointers that will help you manage your anxieties better:

  1. Accept imperfection. No one is perfect and your Christmas day does not HAVE to be absolutely perfect. Remembering this will help you feel more relaxed.
  2. While it would be fantastic that everyone showed appreciation, you certainly do not need it to have a great time. It’s not a reflection on your worth, unless you make it so. If you do, then you will feel stressed, so don’t judge yourself negatively.
  3. Remember that you don’t control other people. If someone acts in a way that you are not happy with, don’t get too stressed about it, rather address the situation, calmly but firmly explaining why that behaviour is unacceptable. Remember, if it’s not a major thing in the scheme of things, you can choose to tolerate it.
  4. You are in control of what you say and do. Imagine the things you are worried about, and think in advance of ways in which you can deal with those things. Most of the time anxiety is maintained because we spend mental energy trying to ensure the bad things don’t happen.
  5. If you really aren’t looking forward to being with a particular family member, then remember that it’s only for a limited time.
  6. Always remember the bigger picture and meaning of Christmas. The message is always there –  celebration, peace and good will to all. Make sure you don’t lose sight of this.
  7. Focus on what’s important, by doing this it enables us to handle tensions and stress far better

Our unrealistic expectations are often provoke Christmas stress.. So set realistic expectations and look to enjoy the Christmas period, with family and friends.

Merry Christmas…

Family Values

13 May

It is International Day of families on May 15th,  so I wanted to share some thoughts of what we really mean by family values…

With the ever fast pace rate of change, our children are being required to adapt and assimilate more information than ever before.  It is more key now perhaps than ever before to create strong , safe, loving family environments for our children. As parents we are role models for our children –  parent’s attitudes, beliefs , behaviours and language is a key factor in how children see  the world and themselves in it.  Creating a “healthy”  family environment is an important aspect of parenting.  The supportive family is one where each individual within the family is listened to and respected regardless of their abilities, age or birth order ; it’s interesting to note that most of us grow out of childhood habits such as nail biting and thumb sucking , but sibling rivalry is the one habit we can experience long into adulthood!  Creating a supportive family dynamic is more preferable than a situation where each family member is in a competition for attention.

Virginia Satir, a renowned family therapist, suggested regular family meals.  Here each family member , including mum and dad, would be given a chance to talk about their week without interruption;  thus each could feel ‘listened’ to. Then a question was asked as to how the family, or any individual member, could support the coming week’s activities for that person. Satir’s recommendation was to have this kind of meal at least once a week, so ever member felt supported and respected.  In our busy lives the meal table can often be the only place we can sit down and be still enough for a conversation with our family ,and more and more this activity is invaded by television or mobile technology.

Much of our learning as children is done unconsciously or subliminally and children will come to identify with their parental gender role model.  Awareness of this fact can enable parents to reflect on their own behaviour and communication and consider what they are ‘silently’ teaching their children.

Some things you can do to help children

Encouraging open honest dialogue between everyone in the family

Create the time to talk on a regular basis about their feeling,s helping them to express their feelings at this time.

Offer support, either from yourselves or a close family figure.

Do your best to keep yourself healthy, physically and emotionally, building a supportive network of friends and family.

If at all possible attempt to keep the routine and life experiences the same as much as possible for the children.

Do your best to ensure a safe, loving, nurturing environment.

When listening apply the following:

  • Make eye contact
  • Face the person you are speaking too
  • Listen to what is being said
  • Imagine you are the person speaking
  • Reply when you have thought about what has been said
  • It’s ok to answer  ‘I need to think about it’
  • Carefully chosen words can be as potent as highly prescribed medicines.
  • Use direct verbs
  • Tell your child what you want them to do, using the negative creates confusion.

By Maggie Chapman