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Family reunions at Christmas are supposed to be a joyful time, right? Unfortunately, not everyone’s family gets along well. More often than not, there’s the sibling that hasn’t outgrown childhood feuds, the aunt that never stops complaining or the uncle that always dishes out unwanted advice, confident that he’s the expert on how people should live their lives. Add the stress of too much to do and the pressure to get the perfect present for everyone, and you have an explosive mixture on your hands that usually doesn’t fail to blow up at some point. How can we make this year different and move through the family Christmas with joy and grace or at the very least escape unscarred?

RELATED: How To Deal With Difficult People At Christmas

Have realistic expectations

When we try pumping ourselves up with positive images and affirmation, saying to ourselves that everything will be different this time, our determination to have a great Christmas crumbles at the first glimpse of reality. The people you’ve known for years will not have changed. Instead of visualising the perfect holiday, know what to expect and accept that there will be challenging situations.

Pretend that everyone has good intentions

Your aunt is telling you how to raise your kids, because she genuinely loves you and she wants the best for you. Your brother always jokes about that event that you’d rather forget, because he has fond memories of you. When you believe (or at least pretend to believe) that people mean well, it’s much easier to just smile, say ‘thank you’ and not let things get to you.

Get busy with the kids

This is my favourite escape plan – when things get too hard, I can always remember that my kids need me and spend some time playing, chatting about Santa and looking at their presents. Even if you don’t have kids of your own, you can always borrow someone else’s. Kids never say ‘no’ to attention, so the plan works without fail every single time.

Focus on each moment as it comes, especially the positive

It’s easy to dismiss the whole family gathering as something horrible that you just have to get through, but don’t let the one argument or the tension you have with a family member ruin the whole event for you. In each family holiday there are also lots of great little moments and if we stop to appreciate them, they add up. Often there’re enough of these moments to outweigh the not-so-great interactions and create an overall fond memories of your family Christmas.

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