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  • Writer's pictureFiona Harvie

Merry Christmas

- or is it?

One week until the big day, many children will be excited and parents stressed. But we all dream about a happy family Christmas

For many families this is a mere dream. And if we are honest looking back at our own childhood memories this is probably only true in films or TV programs.

The reality is that Christmas is more likely to look like this :-

or this:-

There are many reasons for this, Christmas is not a magical panacea to repair broken or hurt relationships, we cannot suddenly just ‘all get on well for one day’. Children may become tired and fractious. We may have expectations of others that haven‘t been met.

We spend more time at home with people than normal, whether that is your spouse, partner, child, parents, in-laws these are all situations likely to cause tensions in the family.

How can you truly have a happy Christmas in these situations? First of all be realistic in your expectations. You can't do everything and other people's happiness does not depend on you.

If you have friends or relatives staying for a few days then arrange some time or activities outside the house. The atmosphere will be much calmer if you are not sharing the same space for too long.

Remember that you are important too. Sometimes it is easy to think that you have to do everything, but take time for yourself.

Avoid spending time with people who are toxic or critical. Sadly in many families there is a critic and you can't avoid spending time with them at Christmas. In this case make the visit as short as possible.

Maybe this will be your Christmas. When we think about loneliness or people spending Christmas alone we picture an older person. However there are many young people who will be alone at Christmas. There are many reasons for this, working or studying away from friends and family. Breaking up with a boyfriend or partner. Recently moved to a new town, job etc. Even if you have a circle of friends they may disappear to family over Christmas leaving you alone.

If you find yourself alone then there are a number of things that will help. If you are an introvert and like nothing better than curling up in front of the TV or with a book then plan your day around that. If you want to be in company then look for local organisations that are providing Christmas dinner for the homeless, the elderly or those having left the care system. Volunteer to help and you will not be on your own and will make new contacts and might find a new talent and people you want to be around.

If you have a space at the dinner table don't assume that a younger friend will be with family at Christmas, invite them to join you.

There are many reasons that people will struggle at Christmas. Times of celebration make our losses more poignant. For some there will be someone missing from Christmas this year. This might be the result of death, illness, separation or divorce. Don't deny your feelings, you have a right to your own set of emotions. So don't force a happy smile for the sake of others, work out what is best for you this year.

Maybe you have children but won't be seeing them on Christmas Day. A perfect excuse to have two Christmas celebrations. If children are spending the 25th with their other parent then arrange another day to celebrate with you. Santa can make two trips to a family and you can have two Christmas dinners. On the day itself choose how you want to spend the day. Then do that rather than thinking about what you are missing out on, spend the day with people who make you smile and plan your own celebration later.

Just as the glossy magazines tell us to plan and prepare for the perfect Christmas a bit of planning will help you cope over the holiday period despite your circumstances.

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