There’s nothing so strange, wonderful and weird than families. At this time of year, when the festivities put so much emphasis on that perfect family Christmas, it can be quite isolating for those of us with unconventional family set-ups to content with.
It could be temporary circumstances, like a redundancy, or a serious illness or death in the family. It could be life changes such as a divorce or remarriage. There could be serious dysfunctional issues. But when everyone is thrown together and expected to have the best week of the year, it can cause fireworks.
So how do you cope with a broken home this Christmas? How best to navigate the complex dynamics, stay self-reliant and still make sure that you have a good time? Here are some tips to get you started
Create Space For Yourself
When it comes to family gatherings, take a step back and remind yourself that an invitation is not a summons – you’re certainly not obliged to attend things that are going to make you uncomfortable. A lot of the pressure is self-generated, but don’t feel that you ‘should’ accept, If the situation is unhealthy or is going to cause damage, give yourself permission to skip it.
Keep Children Out Of It
Christmas is an emotionally charged time of year for all sorts of reasons, and if you’re going through a divorce and things are messy, it can be especially hard to try to remain neutral. Try to make sure that correct legal arrangements are in place by working with a specialist like Austin Kemp Family Law Lawyers so that everyone is clear where they stand.
Acknowledge the reality of the situation – kids pick up on things, and it’s unfair to pretend everything is normal. Say to them ‘I know this Christmas is a little different from ones we’ve had in the past, but we’re still going to celebrate and make new traditions’. Don’t set false expectations and allow the fun to be gentle rather than forced if things have been upsetting. Try to avoid any sense of ownership or one-upmanship about gifts – encourage children to enjoy celebrating with both parents. Often even small children feel responsible for their parents happiness so acknowledge that you may be sad, but that Christmas with them is helping you to feel better.
Don’t Join In The Drama
If someone you love is acting dysfunctionally, you’re faced with a choice. Either you get sucked in and make the issue worse, or you take the difficult path to stop those behaviours in their tracks – which is usually far harder than allowing it to continue. You may be stuck in decades-old patterns but changing the status quo is the only right course of action. If, for example, you find yourself dealing with someone who uses manipulation to control your behaviour, try not to give in or acknowledge it. Calling them out directly may be unhelpful and drive conflict. Instead, show them that those tactics will no longer work with you. You can be subtle but also reinforce boundaries – making you feel safe while also not giving them a big reaction which risks making you look bad.