The average family has its first Christmas Day argument at 9.58am. And the second one at 12.42. The third bust-up happens at 1.30pm, the fourth at 3.24pm and the fifth at 6.05pm. There’s usually another before bedtime, at 10.15pm.*
Christmas 2020 is unlikely to be better. Indeed, chances are it’ll be worse. Many of us will be sat within the same four walls, with the same people, that we’ve got all-too-used to over the past nine months thanks to Covid-19 restrictions. And it’s hard to be empathic when we’ve spent so little time holidaying or socialising, and our health is under threat.
But don’t weep into your mince pie just yet. BAAM’s 2020 Christmas 2020 Family Row First Aid Kit is waiting for you under the tree bearing a label that reads ‘open before the big day’.
Combine these topical tips with your own anger and stress management programme for a chance to reach Boxing Day without moving into a Travelodge. Which is no place to enjoy Christmas.
1 Watch the booze
‘Somebody having too much to drink’ is the third most common cause of a Christmas Day argument (the top two are ‘deciding what to watch on TV’ and ‘fighting over the Christmas dinner’).
Christmas Day is fraught as it is. From ‘optimism bias’ (thinking it’s going to be more fun than it ever is) to ‘schemas’ (reverting to childhood relationships dynamics), the most Wonderful Time of the Year sets itself up to be anything but.
Throw in frustrations that have built up over lockdown and you might as well swap your paper crown for a tin hat.
If you’re not a great drunk, we especially recommend taking it easy this year.
2 Give a little
Not presents, necessarily – just be adaptable.
Eating your sprouts, humouring rambunctious uncles, and saying a beaming ‘thank you’ for an unwanted present will all be appreciated by the family and make you feel a little more like you’re getting into the yuletide swing.
Accept the inevitable. Your mother in law might not be able to resist triggering. Said rambunctious uncle is unlikely to be quite as cheery after several brandies and getting on to the subject of Brexit.
If you’re concerned, spend a little ‘present wrapping’ time on Christmas Eve thinking about what’s going to wind you up, then prepare mentally or hit your anger journal.
3 Be aware of patterns
Right. We’ve been doing this for several decades now and the same things start the same arguments every. Single. Year.
Be keenly aware of historic flash points – particularly on your own account – and be ready to shift the conversation.
4 Don’t go on the attack
If you have an issue with someone (or everyone) else, focus on solutions to the conflict, not on its symptoms.
The idea is to work the situation out, not use it as an excuse for outbursts.
Merely putting yourself in that mindset will work wonders – and have you looking like ‘the only adult in the room’ when everyone else is in full-on six year-old mode.
5 Avoid covert contracts
A ‘covert contract’ is when we feel that there is a correct way of living that we, and others, must adhere to.
The problem is that everyone has their own idea of what this correct way of living is, and very rarely do we share it with other people.
As a result we feel let down by their behaviour when it doesn’t fit into our ‘covert contract’, and resentment builds.
For instance, you might hold fast to the notion that no presents should be opened until after the Queen’s Speech. Others in your family unit may disagree. You are entitled to make your suggestion, and say how it’s important to you, but you might not be able to demand its robust implementation.
More crucial matters than this example may come up. You must express yourself when you feel an important boundary has been broken. Moreover, you must do so knowing that your wishes may not be respected.
Often merely airing your emotions and knowing that you’ve said your piece can be enough to make you feel a little less angry.
6 Don’t raise your voice
You might wonder how anyone could possibly be scared of you, and certainly while wearing a wooly jumper emblazoned with the slogan ‘Up to snow good’.
But our sense of threat is primal. Anyone smaller and physically weaker than you will find it hard not to feel a little nervous at least.
Yes, this does count more for men. Cool, calm and collected is the order of Christmas Day.
7 Monitor passive aggression
Come on – what would the Baby Jesus have to say about manipulation, veiled put-downs and continually bringing up aunt Susie’s divorce? Very little, we’d imagine.
Passive aggressives can enjoy a field day at Christmas, what with their surly eye-rolling at the standard of pressies and casually mentioning what’s on the other channel during the Bond movie. If you are inclined to be passive aggressive (take our Communication Styles Test to find out, and read our recent passive aggression articles here and here) then be acutely aware of your behaviour. Most of all, resist the temptation to provoke arguments. (If you think you may have a passive aggressive person in your household, read our tips for dealing with them compassionately here).
You can find even more resources in our Christmas downloads section here.
Happy Christmas! Our next Introduction to Anger Management Taster Evening is on 19 January 2021 at 7pm if things get out of hand…