Coping with family pressures over Christmas

For anyone concerned about the possibility of relationship and family issues coming to the fore during the festive period, Relationships Ireland has some advice which can help avoid unnecessary confrontation and stress.

“Most families enjoy Christmas but for others it can be a sad and stressful time,” notes Maura Leahy, clinical director at Relationships Ireland.

“The absence of family members through death, and conflict in relationships, can be intensely felt during this period. Our professional counselling services at Relationships Ireland respond to much of this distress and help people take appropriate steps to deal with all relationship difficulties.”

Bernadette Ryan, a couples counsellor with Relationships Ireland, says the three main pressure areas tend to be centred around the Four Fs: Finance, Family, Food, and Fantasy.

“Christmas brings additional financial costs. Most people overspend and extend their credit to the max. This can lead to rising anxiety and even panic. Try and make a list of essential spending, figure out a budget, and stick to it. Even if you do go over a little, it will not be as shocking as spending willy-nilly.

“Families tend to get together at Christmas and for some it is a very welcome scenario, while for others it can be fraught with anxiety and stress. If you find yourself saying a lot of ‘shoulds’ and ‘have tos’ perhaps you need to re-evaluate your plans. If you’re dreading family time perhaps you could limit the time spent. Extended time together can put additional strain on already challenged relationships, and conflict can escalate. Try to step back; take a timeout which will give you the opportunity to respond rather than react.

“When it comes to food, it is lovely to put on a delicious spread for all, but at what cost? It’s not a trial for Master Chef! Cook to your ability, and delegate. It can be a great way to involve extended family members and gives them an opportunity to share their traditions.

“Finally, we all want the perfect Christmas; the ads on the TV are lovely and heart-warming, telling us what we should expect. But there is no such thing as the perfect Christmas, so you can relax! Keep things simple. What can help to make it perfect is to make time for yourself. Take a walk or a bath, and take a moment to breathe and be present,” says Bernadette.

Relationships Ireland is a non-denominational, multi-cultural, LGBT-friendly, all-inclusive relationship counselling service, which has been supporting couples for over 50 years. Further information is available on and, and on and @RelationshipsIE.



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