Christmas is often spoken about (especially in the media) as something to look forward to - a great time for families to get together, to spend some money, eat heaps of good food and party. For many people this is the case and lots of people look back at their childhood and remember Christmas as a happy time.
However, for some people, Christmas is a time when a whole lot can go wrong and is not a time to look forward to. If this is the case for you, you may not like the thought of Christmas coming again and you may be starting to feel stressed about the whole idea.
At Kids Helpline, we hear from lots of young people at Christmas time. Some of the things that young people talk to us about include:
- Listening to parents argue more about the family budget and how they are going to afford the Christmas presents
- Deciding where to spend Christmas when parents are separated or don't get on
- Dreading spending time with relatives who they don't really like but have to be nice to
- Being expected to buy presents for people
- Finding the money and then the right present to give to people
- Being from a family that doesn't celebrate Christmas, and trying to explain this to friends
- Being expected to be home for Christmas when they have no intention of being there
- Having a boyfriend or girlfriend that is not welcome at their house on Christmas Day
- Knowing that family or friends who are coming on Christmas Day are probably going to say and do things that turn the day into a disaster
- Being exposed to alcohol, drunk people and maybe even violence
- Being expected to help out around the house or in a parent's business during school holidays
What can you do to manage things?
Many young people have worked with a Kids Helpline counsellor and have managed to overcome the difficult times and family pressures that come with Christmas. Each year, we hear many inspiring stories from young people who have found strategies to cope with the pressures of Christmas and new ways of responding to challenging situations.
We would like to share some of these tips with you.
- Get involved early. Being part of planning Christmas can help you have a say in how it might go this year. Point out things that happened last year that you are worried about, and see if you can come up with constructive, workable changes for this year
- Know who ‘gets under your skin’. Who in your family do you find yourself reacting to in a negative way? What is it about that family member or friend that you just can't handle? Work out ways you could respond differently if you will be seeing them at Christmas this year
- Let people in your family know if you are feeling ‘Christmas pressure’ i.e. pressure to buy presents, or to be somewhere or with someone you don't like
- Recognise that if your family has some relationship issues, they will still be there on Christmas Day. If possible, try to attend to known issues before Christmas Day, as it is not the time or place to begin to resolve conflict
- See if there is a specific job at home that you can help with on Christmas Day. Volunteer early so you can get a job you like
- If your family is from a non-Western cultural background, discuss what Christmas means or doesn't mean for your family and what that feels like for you. You may need to acknowledge the pressure juggling two cultures can create
- Expect that you will have to take part in some family time. Negotiate to spend time with friends of your choice after the Christmas/New Year period
- See our ‘Talking with Your Parents’ hot topic if you find communicating with your parents a challenge
On the day:
- Try to keep a sense of humor if you hear the same stories repeated from last year
- Offer to help
- See if you can interest someone in a game or to go out to the park
- Learn to recognise the affects of alcohol and those who have had too much, or are likely to have too much, to drink. Avoid people who are influenced by alcohol as they may say negative things, become argumentative or act differently after drinking too much
- Take some time out for yourself. You may want to go for a walk, visit friends, read a book on your own or go online for a while
- Yes, there'll be washing up!
Keep in mind that good communication takes time, energy and practice. There may also be times when things just don't work out, no matter how hard you try. If this happens, take a break and try again later.
While some family circumstances mean Christmas time will be stressful, there are always opportunities to learn some different and more effective strategies. Changes can always be made and mistakes from past Christmas' can often be talked through to make this Christmas a better one.
If you want to talk to someone about managing Christmas this year, you can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (even on Christmas Day!) or use our email or web counselling services.
Published: 2 December 2009
Updated: 22 November 2011