Surviving Christmas

6min read

During the festive season, it’s natural for families to feel some degree of stress or anxiety. Whether it is due to the financial side of things or simply trying to meet everyone’s expectations, the planning can be really stressful.  Many families struggle with relaxing and actually enjoying the day because they may have set themselves up with too much to do.  

Be prepared

On top of that, it is not uncommon for families to enjoy the merriness of the festive period and you may do things you don’t normally do.  Over indulging in the “festive spirit” can sometimes cause conflicts and arguments.  It is important to monitor your alcohol intake and remember to have some soft drinks too.  Routines can also go out of the window as children are excited. This may be unsettling for them so perhaps you can think about making a rough plan that you can try to stick to during this day.  Our advice for surviving Christmas, below, is designed to help you tackle these and hopefully ease the stress.  

Plan as a family

Get together and write a list of what everyone wants to do. With older children, discuss family time and time with friends so you get a happy balance.  Set a realistic budget for presents, food, and other things and try to stick to this as best you can. If a child wants something that is beyond the budget, speak to them and explain as best you can why they cannot have it. 

Make a list of who needs to see who – this is particularly important if you are part of a blended family where different people have different connections in the wider family.

Don’t try and do everything yourself - make a list of jobs that need to be done and allocate them between family or other guests that are invited. Don’t try and keep everyone happy all the time. Schedule in some time to recharge your own batteries - if you’re well rested you’ll be able to enjoy it more.

If things get heated between family members and everything gets too much, remove yourself from the situation and perhaps call a friend or relative.  If this is your first Christmas as a stepfamily your child may feel confused and maybe even angry – try to allocate some time that you can spend alone together to reassure them.

Plan a family treat to avoid that deflated feeling after the holiday season. That way, you’ll have something to look forward to.

If you are separated parent

If you are separated and unable to spend Christmas with your children, then perhaps arrange to have your own special Christmas Day when they return.  It may be a difficult day without your children, so talk to some other family members or friends in advance and see if you can arrange to spend Christmas with other people you care about.

 Many parents are unable to be with their children on Christmas day, for a variety of reasons. Separated families may feel more isolated and alone than in the rest of the year because of the nature of Christmas and the emphasis on families. Some non-resident parents who get in touch with Family Lives are sad that they can’t watch their children open their presents or share that special day with them.  If this is the case for you, see if you can make arrangements with friends who are in a similar position or perhaps use the day to volunteer at local projects.  Hopefully, when you do see your children, you could arrange to have your own special “Christmas Day”.  

Further resources

If you would like further support and advice, call our helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at You can talk to us online via our live chat service, which is open, Monday to Friday between 10.30am and 9pm. You may find it helps to find out how other parents and carers have coped with this on our online forums. We also have a range of free online parenting courses that can help through the ages and stages of parenting. 



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