Tis the season to be jolly? Some would say Christmas is as much about managing your temper as it is opening presents. Traditional Christmas stress-amplifiers – Seasonal Affective Disorder, family, over-eating – have been joined in recent years by newer worries such as climate change or Covid. This Christmas particularly, as fuel bills climb and inflation goes with them, many of us are feeling the bite of the Cost of Living Crisis. The stress caused by the cost of living crisis isn’t eased by confining people in close quarters with family members over long periods.
Anticipating that this Christmas there will be arguments, Cyrenians Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) has put together some tips on how to restore harmony when it looks threatened.
First a word about the SCCR. Cyrenian’s SCCR service hold workshops or events in person or online that explore the issues that cause disputes within families, with a focus on the science of conflict. In addition, on the SCCR website, if you click on the ‘Brainy Stuff’ drop-down menu, you can access fun, quirky pages, beautifully illustrated, that look at different aspects of conflict: Monkey Vs Lizard (empathy), Keep the Heid (anger), Cranial Cocktail (the chemicals the brain produces that affect mood), and The Three Brains (the importance of the mind-body connection in mood regulation). Why not try some of these exercises out over the holidays, if you haven’t before?
With Christmas in mind, the SCCR have these tips to offer for a Christmas during the cost of living crisis that’s as peaceful and bright as it can be – and you can find more tips on our social media too!
Be kind to yourself
Before you can help others, your own wellbeing needs a check-in. It’s important to make time for yourself every day, including at Christmas. Speak with someone if you are not coping. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and that you can seek help if you need it. Remember you are a very important person to those who love, care and support you, so be kind to yourself. That should be your first Christmas present – but only you can give it to yourself.
Be honest with each other
The current cost of living crisis has had so much exposure on television and online that children and young people are likely to be aware of things. They’re usually much more understanding about how limited money might be than parents think. By explaining the family’s financial situation, the expectations of children and young people can become more realistic and mute potential disappointment and conflict.
Whatever you can afford is enough
With that in mind, you don’t have to put yourself in debt (or further debt) for Christmas to be good. Parents and carers often feel under pressure to give presents to their children and young people which they can’t afford, and that can lead to big debt burdens, often paying high interest on borrowed money throughout the year. Sometimes, when parents overspend on gifts it has much to do with being competitive with other parents. Simply put – it’s not worth it. Good memories are made from loving experiences.
In which case, it might be useful to consider a limit on what families spend on gifts or to consider gifts that have a limited cost, such as making your own presents or making decorations out of natural materials you have picked up on a family walk.
Don’t get pulled into a fight
Arguments are as traditional as mince pies, but try not to get hooked into any if you can. Take a step back, calm down, and then and only then have a conversation with the other person. If you are a parent or carer and want to avoid disagreements with those in your care, remember – they’re a year older than last Christmas and will have different needs and wants now. Parents and carers should remember and respect this. It’s also a good idea to be realistic about what young people want to do and have a conversation about it. Perhaps they would rather be at home than visit relatives and their parents’ friends?
Don’t allow yourself to be seduced by adverts and Christmas TV and films into thinking there is a ‘right’ way to do Christmas, especially as it often seems to involve spending a lot of money. Be realistic, but understanding of others and their expectations; as we’ve already mentioned earlier, if young people are upset that they aren’t going to get the big-ticket item they’ve set their heart on, it might be worth explaining why you can’t afford it.
If these tips fail, and an argument does threaten, it’s an idea – assuming the weather isn’t too cold – to go out for a walk. Fresh air and the exercise can make all the difference; it gives you space to slow things down, think and reflect on positives, no matter how small and not to dwell on negatives.
Build your understanding all year round
Finally, if you want to learn more you can, as said at the start of the blog, spend some time on the SCCR website. Try taking the Monkey Vs Lizard quiz and learn whether you’re a ‘Monkey Genius’ or ‘Lord of the Lizards’. Or maybe learn how knowing more about mental, physical and gut health (via The Three Brains) can strengthen your relationships. These website pages are free to use - a Christmas gift from us which you can open all year round!