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A guide to avoiding Christmas conflict

View profile for Amanda Rimmer
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Are your relatives planning to disinherit you this Christmas? Arguments over the holidays lead to huge spike in people changing their Will

‘Ding dong merrily on high!’ We’re definitely on count down.

The Christmas lights have been switched on in town - the Christmas Markets are in full swing - the weather has turned - Black Friday is…well, Black Friday - and you’ve got your advent calendar ready for 1st December. 

Christmas holidays are supposed to be a time of ‘peace and goodwill to all men’, including your family.  No doubt your Christmas schedule is already fully booked, with a number of invites to various places to spend time with relatives and friends. Many of us fall happily into the same chaotic yet comforting routine.

A 'Win-Win' Situation

But what if your family arrangements are more complicated? Whit if your children will be spending time with your ex-partner in their home, making juggling the calendar a little more tricky? 

Of course, both of you will want to spend quality time with your children – getting pleasure from their excitement around Christmas and seeing them open their presents.  Both of you will also want your own families to see them as well.  It can be hard enough cramming everything into your own schedule, never mind having to share the children’s time with your ex.

But it can be done, if a little thought and planning is put into it. Remember, children just want both of their parents to be happy leaving them to enjoy their time without stress or upset.  If you can make this work, it is a win-win for your children – they get a Christmas with both of you!

Top Tips to Avoiding Conflict

While each family and each situation is different, my work with families over the years has shown there are some ‘top tips’ to bear in mind at Christmas to avoid conflict:

  • Be organised well in advance of the Christmas break and have your arrangements in place so that everyone knows what is happening, where they are supposed to be and when.
  • Give the children age-appropriate information.  Tell them what is happening, but don’t overload them with unnecessary information that could cause stress or upset.
  • Remember Christmas is about the children – not the adults. Think of the bigger picture from the children’s point of view and concentrate on what is important.
  • Consider everybody’s well being, even that of your ex-partner.
  • Talk to your ex-partner about who is buying what for the children. This will avoid arguments and upset later.
  • Don’t have a situation where there is dispute about who is giving the children a Christmas dinner. This can result in the children having to face two Christmas tables only hours apart (I have seen this happen!)
  • Don’t get hung up on where the children will be sleeping on Christmas Eve and in whose home they will be waking on Christmas morning.
  • Don’t let the children think they are expected to take sides.
  • Say nice things about your ex or say nothing at all if this is not possible.
  • Communicate directly with your ex and don’t send messages through the children about Christmas. 
  • Don’t do anything that will make a child feel guilty about being away from you at Christmas. Children want to feel able to love the adults in their lives and to enjoy the time that they spend with them. 
  • Remember, children can be exhausted half way through Christmas Day.  They have had little sleep and they have been full of excitement – and possibly sugar!  Christmas Day is not always the quality time that you might hope that it is!  Children can end up bad tempered and tired leading to a stressful family situation.

Thought and Preparation

Before you know it Christmas will be over – and New Year a distant memory. The mornings and evenings will seem even darker once you have taken down your decorations.  What you don’t want is to have dark memories of the Christmas holidays and for your children to have experienced a family under stress. 

There is no doubt that parents put themselves under a lot of pressure around Christmas – trying to get the toy of the moment, spending a little more than you should, cooking a mountain of food and having everyone around a table that’s half the size it needs to be! 

But, if you are able to start to put a little thought and preparation into the arrangements for your children now – you are likely to reap the rewards when the time comes for Father Christmas to pay you all a visit.  

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