Managing all the Christmas pitfalls

Christmas might be a time of celebration, but less pleasant situations sometimes cast a shadow over this period and force us to make choices to avoid them.

You celebrate with your family, visit relatives and share special moments with your loved ones? It’s great if everything is looking good at home! But for those of you who are already starting to stress at the idea of facing family arguments, cigarette smoke or unwanted cheek-pinching, here are some examples of problematic situations and advice on how to manage them.

Break ups in the family

You are separated
Did you recently separate from your spouse and this will be your first solo Christmas? At this point, you probably already had a few discussions about who will have the kids for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Your traditional holiday routine will most probably be turned upside down.

What to do?
Create new rituals. For example, if you have the kids on Christmas day instead of Christmas Eve, you could have a pyjama-brunch-gifts Christmas morning! And for the times you’ll be alone, choose activities that you enjoy (DVD, book, bubble bath, massage, night out with another single mom, etc.) or buy yourself a little treat (flowers, chocolates, etc.) to avoid getting the Holiday blues.

The grandparents are separated
If your own parents have separated and you can’t decide whether to bring your kids at nana’s or grandpa’s, it could cause a major headache.

What to do?
Try to discuss about it openly with each of your parents. Essayez d’en discuter ouvertement avec chacun de vos parents. Tell them how important they are to you and your children and propose to find some middle ground that would work for everyone. Try not to feel guilty about the fact that one or both of your parents will be alone on the night you used to spend all together as a family, and try to make the most of your time together anyway.

Food allergies

Your children have food allergies? Have you been invited to a big family reunion where you’ll find a large buffet? You’re probably anxious at the thought of your kids coming in contact with an allergenic food and having a major reaction to it.

What to do?
In a perfect world, you would simply notify the hosts about your kids’ allergies. They could then take it into consideration when deciding what types of food to serve and let others guests know about the possible consequences of cross-contamination. In reality though, it can be quite complicated to do so, especially with relatives you only see once a year and who may not be too sensitive to your children’s allergies. In that case, prepare a cool picnic basket and share this festive buffet with your kids while still enjoying the party

No smoking in my house!

Another situation that sometimes causes problems and conflicts among family members: cigarettes. You don’t want your children to be exposed to cigarette smoke, but you are invited to a party where there will be many smokers?

What to do?
You can obviously choose not to go, or decide to host your own party and tell your guests that smoking will only be tolerated outside. You could also find a neutral place for the party: a restaurant or reception hall for example. These places are now all smoke-free, but better check just to make sure ! With this option, you’ll avoid having to get involved personally and face a situation that could cause frustrations to some smokers. Oh well!

Mother Nature’s unpredictability

You have to get to a party a few hundreds of kilometres away, and the weather forecast is terrible - obviously! What a nightmare!

What to do?
If possible, suggest postponing the party – or at least your visit – for a day or two. After all, you’re probably not the only ones in the family stuck in the same snow storm. It’s better to celebrate Christmas on the 26th or 27th in one piece than risk driving your car in a ditch on the 25th! If Mother Nature forces you to change your plans unexpectedly, make the most of it and have your own little party at home with the kids. Get the hot chocolate, Christmas music and other treats out and have some fun !

Aunt Bertha’s cheek-pinching

You’re invited to a party with your extended family and your mother insists that her grandchildren accept all the cheek-pinching and other annoying kisses from old aunts and uncles they’ve never met? No matter how well-behaved your kids are, they probably don’t want all these endearments from people they barely know.

What to do?
At the risk of offending a few people, respect your children’s limits to this intrusion. After all, we keep telling them that they need to respect their bodies and refuse to be touched if it makes them uncomfortable. Why change our tunes during the holidays? You can however explain to your kids that the people showing them these signs of affection mean no harm and just want to show them that they care about them. Suggestr a small replacement ritual, such as shaking hands with a big smile to offer their best wishes to their hosts.

No matter what problematic situation you face, remember that Christmas should be a time filles with little joys, and not a longue list of frustrations. You will find solutions to every difficulty by asking yourself what it is that would really make you happy. After all, Christmas only happens once a year. Let’s enjoy it!
Solène Bourque

Solène Bourque is a mother of two; Ariane and Thomas. She is a psychoeducator and a certified instructor in infant massages. She worked for many years in community programs with children aged 0 to 5 years old and she now teaches Special Education in the Cégep du Vieux-Montréal. She co-wrote ‘100 trucs pour les parents des tout-petits’, published in 2010 with the Éditions de Montagne. Become a fan of her facebook page.

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