Family “arguments” at Christmas

By Jackie Brock, Chief Executive Officer, Children in Scotland


The season of goodwill, a time to spend with your loved ones away from the stress of deadlines, meetings and early mornings. Time for thinking about nothing more taxing than what’s on TV, the next book to read and which board game to play next, while enjoying plenty of good food and conversation.

Sounds simple but, for a variety of reasons, this rosy-hewed scene is far from the reality for many families over the festive season.

Raised expectations, clashes of priorities, spending time with your least favourite relatives and the pressure for perfection are key areas for conflict, but everybody deserves to enjoy some downtime at Christmas, with family and friends of all ages, at the centre of the celebrations.

Key to remember is that you can’t please everyone. Take time to talk to your partner or spouse, and your family ahead of the festivities and plan your time. Which parties can you realistically skip? What traditions are most important in your household? It’s your holiday, so make it meaningful for you. Perhaps a sit-down lunch for 30 is your yearly extravaganza, but if your family would prefer a take-away in their pyjamas, that’s ok too!

Be upfront about your plans, so that in-laws and friends don’t have reason to be offended or upset. And if competitive gift-giving is an issue, set a limit on how much grandparents, for example, should spend on the younger family members. Equally, cut down on who you buy for and how much you spend.

In households with teenagers there can be conflict when parents want them to be at home with the family, while the young people prefer either long-lies or being out with their friends. Again, it’s good to talk. Agree which events you would like them to be at, and which are negotiable. This will avoid arguments during the festivities themselves.

Most important of all is to relax. As the carol reminds us, ‘Christmas comes but once a year’, and hopefully some of this advice at least will help ensure that those few days don’t feel endless.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Top tips

– Discuss and plan – if you expect everybody to be at home for Christmas Eve celebrations, make sure they know!

– Deep breaths work – you may not enjoy the company of those you find yourself spending Christmas with, but find a positive in the situation and the time will pass quicker.

– Buy people what they want – we’ve all been given a gift that doesn’t suit our style or personality, so try and give thoughtful gifts.

– Food for thought – You may find yourself preparing lunch for a combination of carnivores, vegans and people with food intolerances, and that may be stressful. But with some solid planning, everybody can enjoy a delicious meal without feeling that they’re an imposition.

– It’s a cracker – If all else fails, laugh. Tell funny family stories, play parlour games, pull a cracker or three. Now more than ever, Christmas should be about appreciating the people in our lives.

Jackie will be spending Christmas with her mum, husband, daughter ages 20, son aged 17 and dog.

@cisweb @JackieJBrock

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive Officer, Children in Scotland

Jackie Brock joined Children in Scotland following 12 years' experience across various posts and departments in the Civil Service, most recently leading Curriculum for Excellence, as Deputy Director of Learning and Support. Jackie has experience across Scotland’s children’s services including, additional support for learning, health and wellbeing, foster, kinship and residential care, youth justice and child protection inspections. Prior to the civil service she worked in local government and the third sector.

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