It’s the most wonderful time of the year… except when it isn’t! As well as having to navigate the shops, the cooking and the kids, there are also a number of people you have to navigate too.
They're the people you may only see once or twice a year and often, there’s a reason you don’t see them more regularly. Add the pressure of Christmas festivities, an ample serving of booze and the heat of an Aussie summer and you've got a recipe for serious drama. Luckily we are here to help, with a handy guide and expert advice on how to deal with all the "interesting" personalities you encounter at this time of the year.
The Grinch can come in many forms but is often a sullen teenager or grumpy older family member – for them, Christmas is just, well, bah humbug! Psychologist Leanne Hall says the trick is to make a connection with them. “Even the most dedicated grinch likes something, so find out what they enjoy!” Sometimes people who appear grinch-like are simply overwhelmed or a tad anxious, so let them have time to adjust. “They may just need some quiet time. It’s also important to remember that Christmas can be difficult for people who have recently lost someone either through death or break-up,” she adds. “As such, it can be a lonely and painful time for some.”
Often a mum or gran who seem to take pleasure in having the metaphorical (or actual) broken egg. They’ll do EVERYTHING… but hey, you know that already because they keep reminding you whilst simultaneously declining any help. “Martyrs often feel under-appreciated,” says Leanne. “So remind them that they are special and appreciated, while at the same time taking initiative and helping out. Don’t ask if they need help because they are likely to say no, instead observe what they are doing and pitch in without taking over!”
You want kids off Nauru, they want to stop the boats…whatever it is they support is exactly what you don’t and yep, they will argue until they’re blue in the face. “Limit the time you spend with these people as they can be draining,” advises Leanne. To avoid an all-out brawl across the dinner table, “try and avoid time alone with them, and stay close to loved ones who fill your cup,” she says. “Don’t engage in those conversations that you KNOW will cause conflict. Walk away, change the subject...and pick your battles wisely.”
The neighbour who pops in and stays too long, the old friend from up the street who just arrives for breakfast and is still there for dinner – we’ve all had Christmas made slightly uncomfortable by someone who outstays their welcome. “Christmas is the time of giving,” says Leanne. If you can, she suggests you try and make allowances for people who are uninvited or outstay their welcome. “Reframe it,” she says. ”Instead of being annoyed, see it as them enjoying your company. Perhaps they feel they don’t have much to go home to? Be patient!” However, if it’s been a long day or you really need them to go, make it about YOU not them. “Say something like ‘It’s been such a long day I’m really tired, can I get you anything else before you head off?” she suggests.
They do their Christmas shopping in June, put their tree up in October and bring you a gift even when you don’t know them (all while playing Mariah Carey's Christmas album). These people LOVE Christmas and sometimes that can be a little overwhelming. “Embrace it!!!!,” laughs Leanne. “Remember, some people get a real kick out of giving. They may even get more out of giving than receiving. Let them have their joy, and be grateful.”
They’re someone from your mum’s bowls club, your dad’s men shed or a new friend from the dog park, and you're wondering how they wound up at the head of the table. “Be aware of where your judgements come from,” says Leanne. “Are they in your head — for example maybe the person reminds you of someone else or based on something the person has actually done or not done?” If you can, then try and give them a chance. “If mum invited them then maybe they aren’t that bad,” she adds.
The bad Santa
They’ve started on the champers with breakfast and now they’re on to the sherry. And then, they turn…If a family member or friend gets messy Leanne says you need to stop them in their tracks. “Cut off the bar tab before this happens, if you’re supplying the alcohol,” she says. If they bring their own, of course, it’s a little more difficult. “Talk to their partner/loved one, or the person they came with,” she says. “Be honest, while displaying concern rather than anger or frustration.” And when they DO leave, then make sure, says Leanne, you keep them contained and safe while you call for an Uber.