Navigating a difficult Christmas and what to do if conflict arises

Everyone might have good intentions, but an argument over Christmas lunch could still happen.

Everyone might have good intentions, but an argument over Christmas lunch could still happen. Photo: Getty

Despite everyone’s best efforts, it’s not unusual for tempers to flare at the dinner table over the holidays.

A joyous time for some, Christmas can be a stressful time for others and while nothing is guaranteed, wellness expert Niki Saks has a few ways to avoid conflict and prepare for any turbulence during the celebrations.

“Attending social occasions with people you don’t get along with or have trouble tolerating can be a challenge that we all face,” Saks said.

“Mind-altering substances and stress can certainly amplify tension during get-togethers. This is one of the many reasons why emotional distress and the annual disagreements happen over the Christmas period.”

Mentally prepare before Christmas

Last year, The New Daily spoke with Elise Margow, a lawyer and mediator and her biggest piece of advice was the same as Saks’: Prepare.

“Breathe. Keep your expectations realistic. Look back at past events and play this movie forward in your mind; you know how it has ended at previous gatherings, be prepared for a rerun,” Saks said. 

“Knowing this, and ensuring that you stay level headed will assist you in enjoying the event as much as possible.”

Margow said before celebrations, anticipate any conflict that might arise.

To quell any arguments quickly, she suggested to have some activities up your sleeve to keep everyone busy – perhaps a friendly game of backyard cricket or putting on a movie.

She also said it’s important to read the room and if conflict arises and there’s alcohol in the mix, it’s important to take stock of what is happening.

Alcohol is one of the many factors that may affect how people are behaving and that should be taken into consideration.

Before celebrations, set boundaries for what you will not tolerate and don’t even think about trying to resolve past issues.

“Stay focused on getting through the event and enjoying yourself,” Saks said.

“Heavy, difficult or important conversations are best kept for another time, especially when late in the day at the event. Keep things light, friendly and positive.”

pictured is someone upset near Christmas tree

Christmas can be tough for some. It’s best to prepare yourself. Photo: Getty

Know when to take a step back

Sometimes, it is best to just remove yourself from a situation and Saks says it’s important to be willing to do so, even if it’s just to get some air, check your phone or just speaking to different people at the event.

After removing yourself from a potentially toxic situation, she suggests taking a few deep breaths.

Removing yourself from an environment that is unhealthy, negative or toxic is important for your self-esteem and mental health,” she said.

“It also allows you the time and space to regain your composure to be able to get through the event without being drawn into any ugly incidents.”

If someone starts getting angry, Margow suggested trying to remain calm. This may make the other person more angry, but it’s the best thing to do.

“We can either get really upset about it or just look at what we have and see what we can do to make it better. That takes a lot of control,” she said.

“Because if you are feeling as flustered as they are, and you’re building yourself up, it’s really hard to pull that back.”

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