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Confessions: In our family, Christmas is nothing but a season for bickering

Readers Lounge - By Hilda Boke Mahare | December 7th 2020 at 09:20:00 GMT +0300
They don’t usually turn out all that well in our extended family (Shutterstock)

December is here and I’m dreading it because of the Christmas Holidays. They don’t usually turn out all that well in our extended family. All that shopping for relatives in ‘shags’, the family get-together, big meals, and trying to get everything just right is stressful.

Even just spending so much time together leads to a lot of arguments. Little irritations become infuriating, and we start bringing up old disputes better forgotten. I suppose it’s no wonder my wife and I fall out over the holidays! Is there some way we can do things better?


What readers say

Your problem could be that you are not ready to be yourself. While it’s Biblical to live your life serving other people, there is nothing wrong in being honest and firm. Don’t fail to go home; remember to shop for those whom you must but without killing yourself; stop at that and should anyone want to know why things have changed, they had better remember that this is 2020 and there’s a pandemic which wasn’t there last year. Repeat the strategy and let it be the ‘new normal’. In summary, be your own person without losing the human being in you.

- Tasma Saka

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Going on holiday should be for leisure and for releasing built-up tension and not vice versa. I would advise you to sit down with your partner to iron out your differences. Plan together. Know and respect each one’s interests. You also need to contribute as per your strengths. Avoid blame games or leaving responsibility to one person or burdening one partner’s share resources and responsibility. Pray together and share a meal together. Respect each opinion and do not overlook each other, give each time to express his or her feelings. Avoid quarreling over petty issues. Seek advice from counselors, elders, your parents from both sides and church ministers.

- Onyango Outha

Morris, yes this time is challenging for most families. It is a period of over-expectation and extravagance. Always remember the purpose of coming together. State your full expectations so that everybody around understands the boundaries from which to operate. Handle the cause of any discomfort. Handle spending by clearly setting aside a specific amount you would wish spend and stick to your budget. Spend only a reasonable amount of time together, always read ahead; if you suspect an argument is brewing, take off. Equally, avoid stories that would unearth the past. You must be very aware now of what transpires between you and your wife before the bickering starts. Cautiously treat that. They say spending quality time with the family -- this does not mean spending whole days with them. Only be with them when necessary and handle the conversations well. If you’re in a group, note the direction a conversation is taking and, should it be going south, avoid the group altogether.

- Ouma Ragumo-Sifuyo

Hilda says

Morris, as long as there is human interaction, there will always be conflict. If handled well, conflict can help to develop our social skills. Now that we cannot completely do away with it, we must know how to manage it. Here are somethings we need to know about conflict.

First, conflict happens when there is divergence of opinion and or ideas; there is nothing wrong about having a different feeling concerning a matter. Remember we are all different, we perceive things differently and therefore our views on a given matter can be as varied as the number of people present. So, different is not wrong.

Secondly, that someone does not act or interprets a matters your way does not mean that they are against you. Separate yourself from your ideas, such that if they are not followed, it is your opinion or idea that was rejected and not you or your person. Otherwise, you are likely to be offended and end up holding unnecessary grudges.

There are so many factors that help to forms one’s view and perspective. They range from one’s upbringing, experiences that one has gone through, among others.

When you have this in mind, you consciously make provision for people’s contrary stand. So when you gather as an extended family, take the differences positively. If there are unresolved issues among yourselves, speak openly with the concerned person. Preferably do this privately. Clarify misunderstandings that you clearly seem to hold against each other.

Also help your spouse understand your family. Family members share common traits from their upbringing, this will reduce the tension between her and the rest of your family, which eventually trickles the two of you. Be realistic in your interaction with your family, do not struggle to impress at the expense of your family or your own expense.

Another important skill but so often ignored is having a sense of humour. Do not take everything so personal. Laugh some things off. I know some relations can offend you intentionally but do not fall into their trap. Take a deep breath and walk away. I am by no means telling you to be everyone’s doormat but, with proper discernment, you will know what to brush off and what to ignore. Otherwise, holidays are a time to relax and reconnect. Enjoy the season. Enjoy the rich diversity in your family. You will be surprised how much goodness you have been missing out on.

Hilda Boke Mahare has a background in Counselling Psychology

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