Relate BFG’s tips for a harmonious Christmas

Local relationship support charity Relate BFG is preparing for a surge in enquiries from families whose relationships reach breaking point over the festive period.

Christmas can be a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with your family but, as so many of us know, it can also come with a whole host of pressures and challenges. It’s no surprise really: the hothouse environment of having lots of contrasting personalities all together indoors for long periods at a time, all the emotional and financial pressure of buying gifts and putting up decorations, and that’s to say nothing about sorting out all the food. We all worry about getting the right gifts for people, preparing the perfect Christmas dinner, getting the house ready and spending concentrated time with extended family.

But Christmas doesn’t have to be an emotional obstacle course. If you’re dreading the holidays, why not try out our tips for a more harmonious festive season?

(1) State expectations

Make sure that you have conversations with your family and friends about everyone’s expectations of Christmas well in advance. That way you can deal with any difficult demands and make compromises that suit everyone.

If you're worried about the cost of Christmas you could also set some spending limits for gifts or come up with ideas for presents that don't need to be bought; for example washing the car or making someone breakfast in bed.

(2) It’s OK to say no

As well as talking to your family about what they want to happen at Christmas, be honest about what you want to do! If you want to turn something down, explain why you don’t want to do it, and have a suggestion ready for an alternative. For example instead of taking on all the cooking you could suggest a ‘bring and share’ meal so that everyone takes a share of the work.

(3) Practical prep

If you’re hosting Christmas, it’s always a good idea to do some prep beforehand – simple things like making (or buying!) the food early or wrapping presents the weekend before can really help. Make a list of tasks that need to be done in the run up to Christmas and ask your family and friends to each put their name to something. You can stick this up at home and even get the kids to decorate it with Christmas pictures or stickers.

(4) Delegate, delegate, delegate

Don’t be afraid to ask your guests for help. We can all fall into the trap of wanting to be the perfect host, but in reality, hosting Christmas Day can be very demanding. Asking people to help can make everyone feel involved. Children really like to feel helpful, so get them involved with handing round snacks or setting the table.

(5) Avoid conflict

If you’re worried your guests might not get on, go for a walk in the afternoon to break things up a little. This gives everyone the chance to chat to someone different, or even to stay at home if tension is building. Equally, you can always ask a guest to make drinks, or help out with the kids in order to break up any potential conflict. If you know certain people don’t get on, speak to them beforehand and explain how important to you it is to have a harmonious day.

(6) It’s your Christmas too

Christmas Day can whizz by in a festive blur without you so much has sniffing a glass of fizz or pulling a cracker because you’re frantically trying to make everything perfect for everyone else. Remember that it’s your Christmas too and you should be able to enjoy it. Make a timetable for the day so that there are regular times when you can sit down and talk with everyone or play with the children.

If you’re finding the pressure of the holiday season too much remember you can talk to one of our counsellors.

Relate BFG’s non-judgmental services support individuals, couples, families, children, young people and friends of all ages, backgrounds and sexual orientations. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call the central booking line on 0521 9254 2709, there is an answer phone for leaving a message if required.