Coping with Christmas family stress 10-11am Mon Dec 14

Want Christmas to be perfect but worried how you'll keep things on an even keel? Perhaps you have trouble coping with warring relatives, or feel you get left to do all the work? Family counsellor Sue Atkins is here 10-11am on Mon December 14th to answer your questions about coping with Christmas stress.

[Modified by: webeditor on 09 December 2009 11:19:26 ]


  • Hello Everyone
    Looking forward to answering your questions on Christmas Stress image

  • Hi Sue,
    I love having my family over at Christmas, but also find I get really irritated at having my house 'invaded'. Any strategies I can employ to prevent myself snapping at my relatives, who are well-meaning but drive me up the wall?!
  • Grab a paper and pen and jot down what you find stresses you out so you can actually see what it is ..... then we can look at some simple strategies to help you feel more in control of your emotions
  • Hi Sue
    I'm trying to lose some baby weight and am worried all my hard work will go to pot at Christmas time. Everywhere I turn there is temptation, and my husband just keeps bringing home more goodies for the -Christmas stash'. On Christmas day we are going to my in-laws, they are a family of big eaters and tend to make me feel flaky if I don't indulge like they do. How can I keep on track, still enjoy myself and not offend my mother in law but not eating -all' her home cooked food? I know it sounds silly but it's really worrying me.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Hi Homey - I know the feeling ! When I assist on Paul McKenna's Easy Weight Loss Seminars we teach the group a very simple but often overlooked technique of eating really slowly .... just take your time to slow the whole thing down ..... put your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls..... and really savour eat mouth ful.
    I love my food and what most of us do is think about food ALL DAY long but not when we are eating it !

    So one very simple thing is to eat consciously .... and slowly..... eat what you want , but you'll find as you eat slower you'll notice when you feel full up.
    When we eat quickly we over ride our natural signs that we have had enough .... so we end up bloated.
    Give up saying you are ona diet .... as that IMMEDIATELY makes you feel you are on a fast and you crave everything you can't have !

    So drink more water, walk about a bit more - maybe with you babay in the pushchair to get more exercise and relax around food - taking control of it ...... not it of you !

    Hope that helps ! image
  • OK - here goes.
    1. before they arrive I have a big clear up. My mum arrives and immediately fills all the areas I've cleared with stuff like empty jam jars and newspaper cuttings. Then she gets huffy when I don't look at them immediately.
    2. my sister never offers useful help and what she does help with she does badly eg sets the table but doesn't set enough places or put out glaasses. It would have been easier to do it myself !
    3. aunty is very critical - nothing is ever quite right or how it would be at her house.
    Oh dear! Sounds like a very dysfunctional family! Not really as bad as it sounds but I just need to know how to stay calm and not get riled, I think. Help!!
  • Will be spending my first Cristmas with the in-laws after having my baby in November. MIL is very interfering and FIL doesn't like me breastfeeding. Husb won't stand up to them and just tells me to endure it as is only for a short time and not worth hassle. Afraid I'm going to spend the whole time in the bedroom crying! Any tips?
  • Hi Frantic Mum

    Right - I want you to imagine it all going really well, be very specific about what you see happening - be very very specific about what you want your sister to do - in a nice voice but very very specifically about where you'd like the glasses, the candles, the coasters etc etc - so she understanhds how to help you in the way you want to be helped.
    With your mum - imagine she's just arrived - see the things she does and smile ( as this realses endorphins ! ) and then see yourself brething deeply as you knew this would happen and stop what you are doing and give her your full attention for a few minutes to make her feel important and significant - then thank her , move the stuff where you want it to go and thank her for bringing it - smile agian - knowing you are in control of what happens ..... up to a point. I teach something called the One Point Techniques on my Workshops and the technique is in my Toddler Taming CD as it's a great way to feel back in control whether things go well or pear shaped !

    Auntie - well she is really quite critical of herself I bet deep down - so get yourself grounded, centred and positive - these are some of the affirmations I use myself ( you can see lots of them in my Positive parents Club as I find them brilliant for controlling stress) and imagine your favourite colour all around you so her energy, vibes or crticism can't reach you or affect YOUR mood ! pop on some of your favourite music to get you uip beat and imagine her words falling off you like a duck's water proof feathers !

    Hope that helps - let me know how you get on at [email protected]
  • Thanks Sue. I think maybe I'm a bit of a control freak so perhaps should re-focus my control freakery to control myself this year!
  • Hi Sue
    My partner has two children from a previous marriage which can be stressful at the best of times. We're having them for Christmas for the first time this year Any tips on how I can get through it and make it enjoyable for 'everyone' involved?
  • Hello NewNewMum
    firstly congratulations on your baby ! How exciting to have your first Christmas together . I want you to imagine it all going exactly the way you want it to go ..... you can just daydream it ..... but be very very specific ...... see what you are doing ..... what you are saying .... confidently .... positively ...... and politely ...... see yourself grounded, positive, confident and enjoying the time together ...... hear what you hear ...... what you say ..... how you reply ,,,,, notice how yu breathe when you are relaxed your baby will really really pick up on your vibes so make sure you feel relaxed..... notice a timw when things have gone well ..... and notice what's happening then...... so you can do more of it .......

    Make sure you have plenty of energy and feel calm and relaxed - eat well .... drink plenty of fluids and take some exercise and pop on your favourite music to lift your spirit and confidence first ..... trust your instincts and intuition about how to handle your baby as you know deep down what feels right for the pair of you ...... and be strong in your belief that it will all go well and that you will all enjoy your baby's first Christsmas - focus on building a happy memeory for yourself, and your family .......

    Hope that helps

    Sue - have fun image
  • Hello Little_el

    It's about relaxing and having the intention to all have a good time ... and it's about not trying too hard to please them - or give the whole of the power over to them - it's about creating a new form of traditions and taking things slowly - I'm talking about Stepfamilies later today on BBC 3 counties.

    Think of ways to developing some new traditions together, focus on just "getting to know them " a bit better this Christmas - ask them questions , be interesetd in them gently without prying, what music do they like? what films shall you all watch together that would be fun?, - don't try to replace their other family life - just be yourself look for ways to build bridges not walls and see step family life as a blending process on a slow cooker - not an immediate " I love you ! " type thing as this takes the pressure off you all to "Like , love " each other. Just focus on respect, and building this time and communicate positively and see life through the shoes and socks of your step children ... see what they see when they think of coming round..... hear what they hear...... and feel how they feel ..... and you'll get some deeper ind=sights that might be helpful

    Hope that helps - have agreat time image


    Sorry about my spelling - I'm typing too quickly ..... like I speak ! image
  • Overwhelmed and stressed are two words many parents use to describe their situations when they come to me for coaching and although feeling slightly stressed is often described as normal, you must tackle your parenting challenges head on if you want to feel generally more in control of your life- don't let stress take control of you.

    Take some time here to think of the benefits that taking control of your stress will give you and write them all down as this gives you clarity and motivation to make a positive change. Remember that stress drains your energy and always has a huge negative impact on you and your family. If you run on empty for too long, you run out - your family needs you to be energised, upbeat and happy.

    Start to manage your stress by taking energy breaks and making dates with yourself. Write down a list of all the little things you can do to replenish your batteries, put back a spring in your step, which makes your eyes shine and has you singing in the shower again! Is it enjoying a cup of green tea, sitting down quietly for 15 minutes in the kitchen, or taking a long, hot bath?

    Just become more aware of taking time out for yourself each day, each week and each month. And make a promise to yourself to do these little things on a regular basis. Put some dates in your diary so you get into the habit of making these treats an everyday occurrence.

    I do a lot of work during my workshops on helping parents learn how to get into a positive parenting mindset or attitude as it's all about how you feel that makes the biggest difference in your family relationships.

    The following exercise is just one way to take back control when you feel that everything is spiralling out of control:

    ??????? Relax and breathe deeply and slowly.

    Allow your shoulders to drop. Allow your whole body to relax.

    ??????? Mentally give yourself a gift - the gift of being peaceful and relaxed now.

    ??????? Imagine what you really want to achieve.

    Imagine what you can see and hear and imagine how you feel.

    ??????? Turn the colours of the picture up brighter and the sounds you can hear louder, and make the feelings more intense.

    Really step inside your picture and enjoy the warm feelings of joy and success, pleasure and pride. See yourself smiling. Feel content and happy knowing that you have done a good job.

    ??????? Make the sounds louder, the colours brighter and the feelings stronger and bring the pictures and sounds and feelings really close to you, and then clench your fist tightly.

    As you clench your fist, remind yourself of this wonderful experience.
    Breathe deeply and slowly, savouring, remembering, and relishing these wonderful feelings, sounds and pictures.

    ??????? Breathe deeply and become aware of the sounds in the room.

    Feel your feet on the ground and your body on your chair. Start to come back to where you are and now and open your eyes.

    You can have this wonderful feeling anytime you want it - when your kids won't brush their teeth or tidy their bedrooms. You can have it when you're late, tired or grumpy. You can choose to have it anytime you need it. Simply clench your fists and the feeling returns to you easily.

    And finally...

    A simple physical change you can make is to just start smiling. This may sound crazy, but merely smiling actually sends a message to your brain that makes you feel better straight away as it releases endorphins which make you feel good. Try it for yourself and see the difference!

    So the next time you feel everything is getting on top of you don't panic or get angry, simply start by pressing your own internal pause button, taking three deep slow breaths in and out and feel yourself getting grounded and centred. And remember to be patient with yourself, learning new ways to cope and breaking old habits takes time.

    Always keep the big picture in mind, parenting is not always easy but the rewards and happiness you get in the long run always make it all worth while and remember you are creating the memories that last a lifetime.

    So relax , have fun , stick on some of your favourite music to lift your spirits - ASK FOR HELP as we as women are very good at this bit - and BE SPECIFIC in what you want doing , how you want it and when .....

    I blog daily and over the last few days I have been blogging about practical ways to handle Christmas positively - so head over to to read them and get some more ideas.

  • Help! I have a 4 month old son and a hyper crazy excited little daughter who is 3 and beside herself about Christmas! She has already started waking far too early asking if it is Christmas day yet- I'm exhausted! I'm finding it hard to cope with everything and her over excited state. It is very sweet but when I have so much to do and cope with right now, I know she'll be up at some crazy hour and I don't want us both to run out of steam. How will I keep her in bed and calm her down with out ruining the Christmas spirit for her?
  • HI Sue,
    Am really worried about Chruistmas this year - my husband and I just split up and this is our first Chriostmas apart. I've got the kids (2 and 3) and am worried about how to make it special for them without their dad there. Also how will I cope on my own? No family near by so it's just me and the kids.
  • I meant AREN'T very good at ASKING ! Ooops image
  • Hello Star Gazer
    It's about finding quiet activities to do with your daughter to ground her and keep her babalnced - jigsaws. painting, reading her stories, story Cds or music for children can help. My friend Marneta has created wonderful Cds for children with guided storytelling call so that's a really lovely way to calm kids down when they get over excited - also watch what she's eating as too may chocolates, sweets and fizzy drinks can make kids a bit too upbeat too !!!

    Hope that helps
  • It's 11am so no new questions, please. Many thanks to Sue Atkins for her great calming advice. Here's hoping we all have a great Christmas! Come back for more webchats in the New Year.
    Web Ed Nicola
  • Hello 778yotgirl

    The first thing is to stop feeling guilty .... as that stops you focusing all the lovely new ways you are going to do Christmas - start by relaxing first and just daydreaming the sort of magical Christmas you want to create for your children . Think of the special traditions you want to start, the fun you will have together - the games you will play - when you want to open your pressies together - first thing in th morning or after breakfast ...... focus on being polite to your ex over arrangements and being a good role model for your kids and pop in some "me" time for you to do something as an adult that's fun , gives you a break and makes Christmas special for you.

    Relax and build memories that you will be proud of with your children - and have fun Xx

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