Family: you can’t live with them, but you can’t live without them. While Christmas can be a fun-filled time of year, there’s always that added stress of playing Happy Families, especially when your clan might meet infrequently for the rest of the year.
Mother-in-law problems can be a particularly tricky issue to navigate, especially if they are no longer playing a matriarchal role in proceedings. So here are a few expert tips from family therapists….
1. Prepare early and rehearse roles
In the same way that people start buying Christmas presents early, prepare for how things will be.
2. Take ownership of your feelings
It’s our thoughts that control our feelings – no one else controls your thoughts apart from you.
3. Pick and choose your battles…
Especially with a narcissistic mother in law! In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff.
4. Tweak old habits
Rather than everyone staying together in your parents’ house for three nights, would a low-key pub lunch work better? Christmas rituals often get frozen in time – and there’s often a lack of negotiation between families about what they actually want.
5. Break the pattern
Remember that, regardless of how annoying one of your loved ones might be, you can’t control their behaviour. But what you can do is change your reaction to it; if you don’t react in the same way, the behaviour pattern is broken.
6. Don’t drink too much
It’s nice to feel merry on Christmas day, but if you drink too much you may lose some self-control and end up saying – or doing – something you might regret.
7. Be kind
There is always one grumpy scrooge or a grumpy mother in law in the family who either doesn’t like Christmas or is determined to have a bad Christmas! Be kind to this family member: their behaviour may be masking another feeling, such as sadness or anger. Involve this person while trying not to draw attention to them – give them options and ask them to join in.