Surviving The festive season

Families are a smorgasbord of emotions and history to test everyone’s palate. And for many, the summer festive season emphasises expectations on family that can be difficult to digest. It’s not uncommon for me to hear from couples, parents and young people about the additional stresses and strains this time of year brings.

Often a complex recipe brewing within biological families is stressful enough, and the addition of blended, separated and distressed families can deliver a bitter and spicy brew. Additional pressures on finances, social engagements, parenting and work don’t always make the festive season taste 5 star and it can disintegrate into a tasteless mess of anxiety, conflict and disconnection.

Sounds disastrous? I’m hoping I haven’t put to many of you off both celebrating with family and a good feast, because of course with the right ingredients, the festive season can also be a time of connection and fun. Check out these ‘recipe’ ideas for a taste of something new…

Make a plan
Taking some time now to create a festive season plan with your partner. Discuss how you want the festive season to look, and get into the nitty gritty around responsibilities and roles. This is a good time to talk about broader families complexities that could arise and how as a team you will deal with them. Check in with the kids (if there old enough) and be prepared to compromise.

It goes without saying that this time of year is usually expensive. Having a budget and sticking to it can really reduce stressors and conflict triggers

Choose your engagements
Not only choose which social functions are best for you in terms of coping and merriment, but be prepared to put good boundaries around any obligatory family gatherings. You can decide who to visit and for how long. This can be the difference between enjoyment and overwhelm. For some, taking this action may be the first time they have felt empowered around family gathering choices and it’s understandable that this could be sensitive. So support each other with care and understanding around difficult family decisions

The triple bottom end
And I’m not talking corporate lingo.. This is about physical, emotional and spiritual. The festive season can drain our resources and reserves around these life indicators. When we are depleted we are less likely to cope well. So as much as possible, eat well, watch your alcohol consumption, exercise, be mindful, and, well, see the next point…

Prioritise couple time
It’s important to not forget your coupledom during the festive season. Whether because of social or family pressures it can be easy to do. In your planning phase and ongoing, keep putting aside regular time to connect with your partner emotionally. For families where the stakes a high in regard to complex or sensitive issues, prioritising quality couples is often harder and more essential.

My hope is some or all of these ideas can be combined to get the right hearty, seasonal flavour that works for you and your family. However I think we all understand these simple ideas aren’t going to be to everyone’s taste and for some the festive season will always be a time of isolation and loneliness. If you need too, please don’t hesitate to get professional help and I’ve included a few numbers that may be of assistance..

Useful Contacts

Lifeline – 13 11 14
Men’s referral service – 1300 766 491
Parent line – 1300 1300 52
Kids helpline – 1800 55 1800