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Relationship advice for Christmas

Tangled Christmas lightsDo the Christmas festivities make mincemeat of your relationships with your other half, parents, in-laws, siblings, great-aunts et (uncle) al?

Partake of Mumsnet relationship advice for heading off ructions and getting through the whole Yuletide hoo-ha without going crackers.

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Good tidings we bring for you and your kin...

Well, that's the theory. The reality - mass catering, over-excited children, extended families and alcohol - can be more wailing than wassailing. So how to avoid family rifts and remain on speaking terms with your relatives throughout Christmas and the New Year? Mumsnetters say:

  • "Don't be a martyr - if the rellies are too much to cope with all at once, tell them, and try to negotiate some turn-taking (especially if there are some volatile combinations)." 
  • "Only spend Christmas with people you actually like. This includes relatives. Point blank ignore all episodes of emotional blackmail. Simply pretend you haven't noticed that wobbly bottom lip because the crackers have been pulled and it has spoiled the look of the table." 
  • "Don't spend it with any family apart from your own immediate children!" 
  • "Fake illness (something non-serious but antisocial like D&V). Have small, happy family christmas." 
  • "Spend it with friends." 
  • "Become very involved in the church. A very High church, which does matins, lauds, prime. Sorted." 

Christmas is, of course, all about the children, but that doesn't mean they don't need a bit of 'management'...

  • "Get hold of a Christmas edition of their favourite comic and roll it up as one of their stocking presents - it will not only take up plenty of space relatively cheaply but will also keep them occupied reading it if they wake up horribly early on Christmas morning." 
  • "Adults may be happy to sit in over-heated houses, stuffing their faces and falling asleep on the sofa, but the sugar effect on children is wearing for everyone if they don't get outside to burn it off." 
  • "Just do it at their pace and don't get upset if things don't go exactly the way you planned." 

And as for the in-laws...

  • "Nod and smile. Nod and smile. Be prepared for MIL's bout of 'episodic ataxia' when the spotlight's been off her for more than half an hour. Nod and smile." 
  • "Don't try to force the small talk for too long. Some kind of animated film in the afternoon is most welcome." 
  • "Request to work at Christmas if it is your 'turn' to have the in-laws over." 
  • "Coping mechanisms: consider taking up smoking again. Swear quietly and viciously in the garden." 

Now bring us some figgy pudding...

Christmas cakeIf your family is prone to making a meal out of Christmas dinner, then the following will help get you through to the mince pies without telling everyone where they can stuff their, er, stuffing:

  • "Offer to do the cooking, and prepare well ahead, then you get to spend the best part of the day pottering around in the kitchen listening to the Christmas Oratorio, drinking the decent wine, missing the squabbles, and hiding from the in-laws. Everyone will think you are a saint, and you will be rewarded with an afternoon nap. Well worth it." 
  • "If you like having help in the kitchen, say so, and delegate jobs accordingly. If, however, you are like me and can't stand having people in the kitchen getting in the way offering to help, then delegate one person who is firm of stance and commanding of voice to head 'helpers' off at the pass and involve them in an endless game of Snap/Entertain The Toddler/Hunt The Lost Battery in another room." 
  • "Never learn to cook a Christmas dinner. I am 47 and see no reason to change this now."

If you're a guest...

  • "Take one bottle of wine per adult eating, even if you are driving, and one course - preferably pudding." 

And if you're a vegetarian...

  • Offer to take something for yourself that will go with traditional veggies, and take too much so everyone can try a bit if they want to. And, yes, the host could cook something but it'll probably be horrible. Offer to bring your own and at least you will know there is something that hasn't got just a 'lickle dribble' of chicken in. 

And a cup of good cheer...

Wine glassesBuck's Fizz for breakfast can leave you sozzled by suppertime, but Mumsnetters are divided on the subject of Christmas spirits:

  • "Most of the worst Christmas moments I can think of are caused by the demon drink, where people who aren't used to it go over the limit. It's a good idea to have some low-alcohol alcohol. Make the Buck's Fizz with mostly orange; make the Christmas punch mostly apple juice with a bit of brandy."
  • "Mulled wine is a good lower alcohol festive drink - you can boil it a bit to lower the alcohol content, plus it has orange juice in it (and MIL puts Earl Grey tea in, too). And the smell of mulled wine is very festive!"

But then again…

  • "Speaking from (rather bitter) experience, many tense Christmas moments are caused by having rather too many teetotallers on both sides of our families. Too many people staying uptight and stressy throughout; the others hiding their wine consumption from parents who think more than one glass of wine = severe alcohol problems."
  • "Alcohol helps." 

And we won't go until we get some...

Christmas tree decorationThe issue of 'whose house' is one of the most vexed in the pantheon of Christmas vexations, but Mumsnetters have well-worn coping strategies:

  • "My approach is to ignore all phone calls and emails from relatives from 1 Sept - around 15 Dec. That way it's very hard for even the most thick-skinned relatives to invite themselves for Christmas. I realise this isn't the most mature, assertive approach."
  • "If you have warring parents who refuse to be in the same room, inform them very early in the year whose turn it is to come to yours for Xmas day. You may well have to have the same argument conversation many times but it serves as a useful tool for relieving other pent-up festive frustrations."
  • "Have a designated plan for whose house you will be at. Stick to it. This way you will not end up annoyed with the same relatives every year. You will be annoyed with different ones."
  • "Keep quiet until you know everyone else's plans. You don't want to get the reputation for being the organised one! That way you will hopefully get invited out and not have to do any entertaining at all."
  • "Just because your family has always done it does not mean it has to be done."
  • "Run away. To another country if necessary, to really drive the point home."

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Christmas angel decorationDespite the harmony-straining stresses, it's the season of peace and goodwill to all men and all that, so have yourself a merry little Christmas:

  • "We have an evening, just me and DP, where we get a takeaway, put on a film and wrap pressies together."
  • "I couldn't tell you any of the Christmas pressies I got as a kid, or remember whether the turkey was dry or not - I remember getting to see my family and sitting around the table for hours chatting and teasing one another and just generally enjoying everyone's company - that's what I want to give my son."
  • "Feel the love. There are 12 days of Christmas in my book, so plenty of time for everyone. All pile in and all help."

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Last updated: over 3 years ago