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Surviving Relatives At Christmas

Surviving Relatives At Christmas
Whilst Christmas can be a wonderful time for catching up with our nearest and dearest, sadly it can also be highly stressful and unpleasant for those who feel obligated to spend time with relatives and in-laws that they don't particularly like. According to Success Coach Elizabeth Juffs, most divorces and family breakdowns occur at Christmas. The festive season is a time when expectations are high. Some of our relatives may be difficult to get on with and we are thrown together for unnaturally long stretches of time. Corey Allen, author of a simple marriage, says 'my father-in-law aptly stated it this way: one of the best things about the holidays is seeing the headlights of family members coming up the driveway to visit. The second best thing about the holidays is seeing their tail lights as they drive away'. Handling extended family and in-laws can be tricky for almost every couple and everyone has the blessing of a good extended family or in-laws. Many couples still feel like they must compete against their in-laws for the time and attention of their spouse. However, like it or not, extended family and in-laws are part of your life, so having a good relationship with them is vital.Top tips for staying sane over the Christmas periodElizabeth Juffs recommends the following general strategies:1. Budget: Set a budget you can afford for presents and all entertainment- and stick to it. Don't be persuaded to spend more by a persistent child or by trying to 'keep up with the Jones'. More expensive gifts will generally be no better appreciated than cheaper ones and it can be fun finding presents on a budget.2. Establish boundaries: If you're visiting, make it clear when you'll arrive and how long you'll stay and try to leave while things are still going well. If you're the host, decide your rules, communicate them and stick to them e.g. how long your guests are invited for, whether/where smoking is acceptable, where/when children or pets are permitted, etc.3. Ask for help: Let all your guests help, they'll often be happy to and it will ease the load. Be creative and match your requests with your guest's strengths and interests, e.g. making and icing a cake, organising games, keeping the children entertained, helping with meals, washing up, or simply bringing an item of food or drink.4. Keep hold of the reins: If relatives come to stay or visit, remember this is your 'party', don't allow anyone to take over. For example, if someone tries to push you around, remind them gently but firmly that you have decided what to serve, how to cook it, how to deal with your children etc. If someone irritates you, count mentally to 10 before you do or say anything. Let it go and don't let anyone ruin Christmas.5. Recognise the good bits in others: Remember a time when you perhaps were hard to be with. We are human and can all overstep the mark at times. Take an interest in each person and really listen and talk with them, you'll enjoy them more and they will respect you more. Compliment others when they say or do something you like, and offer them help when they need it - get on their side. Build their self-esteem and they are likely to be easier to be with.6. Learn to say no: If people do or say something that doesn't fit with you, tell them so. Say 'no' clearly, consistently and if necessary repeatedly but calmly and gently. Some ways of politely saying 'no' include: "I can't right now, but I can do it later", "I can't, but ask......", "I really don't enjoy that", "I've realised I must leave some time for myself".7. Prepare in advance: Do as many of the tasks in advance as possible, with help if you can arrange it. Prepare as much food and drink as you can the day before any big meal e.g. vegetables peeled and sliced, main dish ready for cooking, sauces prepared. Consider simpler ways for meals e.g. having a Christmas buffet where everyone helps themselves.8. Remember you: Get some good sleep in the run up to Christmas and find some time to relax, especially if things get overwhelming. Have a bath, read a good book, visit a friend. Plan to get all the jobs you can out of the way before Christmas Eve, such as wrapping and delivering presents. Find time to see some friends over the holiday period. Being with people who make you happy is a great buffer to life's ups and downs. Don't try to be superman/woman, and don't expect your Christmas to be perfect - then you won't be disappointed.9. Maintain a 'stress free' zone Find ways to keep calm during the festive period for example go out for a meal or have a take-away, ask your guests to babysit whilst you go out, take time out for a walk in the fresh air, etc. Play! Have some fun times - organise some board games, play silly party games, or even have a snowball or pillow fight! Don't drink too much alcohol, it can escalate a difficult situation into an impossible one. If all else fails, try pummelling your pillow to get rid of pent up aggression (instead of taking it out on your relatives!)10. Believe in yourself! You can have a magical Christmas with your relatives and enjoy it. Really believe in your ability and you will!Corey Allen recommends the following to navigate the extended family and in-law waters this holiday season: a mix of tact, straightforwardness, and healthy selfishness.11. Your spouse comes firstThe Bible even talks about this one - a child will leave their mother and father and cling to their spouse. When you get married, it's time to grow up and leave your parents. This doesn't mean you emotionally kick them to the curb or cut all ties, but you do need to establish your own family. By putting your spouse first, you are choosing the adult role of being a husband or wife over the role of being a child in your parent's family.12. Set boundariesThere are many things that happen in marriage that are none of your parent's business. If you run to mum or dad any time you have a fight with your spouse, how are you going to learn to handle life with your spouse with just the two of you? Avoid sharing the household secrets with your parents. Discuss with your spouse what topics and areas of your life are off limits to others.13. Establish ground rulesMuch like the previous point, setting clear ground rules for handling extended family will improve your marriage:When do you and your spouse have exclusive time for each other?When do you spend time with your extended family?When do you involve your parents/in-laws in decision-making?Where should you discuss your marital conflicts, in private or in front of your in-laws?14. Recognize the cultureOur culture and upbringing plays a major role in defining the norms of marriage. Recognize the cultural aspects of your spouse's upbringing. One client I've worked with handled it this way, in her family, the women did all the cooking and cleaning up at meal times. So when they shared a meal with her parents, he stayed out of the way. However, when her parents weren't around he stepped up and helped out or took care of it himself.15. Don't criticize your spouse's relationship with their family or parentsNothing can raise a spouse's defences faster than criticism. Seek to understand more about their relationship rather than criticize, as that can lead to bitterness and resentment.16. Be politeThis doesn't mean you have to change your personality to please your extended family or in-laws, but respect rules and traditions that are important to the older generation. Being polite and respectful with in-laws will go a long way in improving the relationship, not only with your in-laws but your spouse as well.17. Develop code wordsMy wife and I have pretty good relationships with each other's parents and family. Even so, there are still times when they drive us a bit crazy. We've developed some code words that we use to lighten the mood between us whenever family is getting too annoying. Have fun with this one, but remember to remain respectful. Derogatory code words will only cause more problems.18. Spend time with your extended familyDevelop a better relationship with your family members by doing things together. Find out what they enjoy and join them. This could be shopping, playing golf, cards, whatever. You may find you have more in common than you thought.Christmas only comes once a year. Smile, have fun and enjoy! By Clare Randall - ACAP Placement Student - December 2010References
10-Top-Tips"> Juffs


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