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Christmas And Families - Some Survival Strategies.

Christmas And Families - Some Survival Strategies.

New Zealand Police Canterbury News Release
11:51am 17 December 2008

In our hearts we think of Christmas time as a great time when we get together with family, some of whom we don't see regularly, share a special meal and relax as the children open their presents.

For most of us, the reality is different and in fact Christmas brings a number of stresses that we need to plan for ahead of time.

In the run up to Christmas many people are often very busy at work , perhaps working extra hours. We are also trying to find enough money to buy presents and organise special food for "the day."

We may drink more than usual at Christmas functions and in response to the work and financial stresses.

When the holiday comes, we are suddenly spending much more time together with our family, including family we don't see very often, and feelings build up.

If our family is a separated family, we may have two lots of Christmas arrangements to fit in for the children.

So what could help make it a safe and happy day for all the family?

Budget: plan well ahead about how much can be spared for presents and talk about it with everyone in the family. Remember that very small children often have more fun with the wrapping paper than the gift!

Think of alternative present ideas like:

Home made gifts: home baking, craft items, fudge, fruit or flowers from the garden, a beautiful shell from the beach.

Lucky dip: everyone contributes two creative, fun gifts which cost less than $2 to a lucky dip basket which gets passed round at the Christmas meal.

Secret Santa: each person buys one present for a family member so everyone gets one. Agree on a maximum monetary value beforehand.

"Group gifts": buy a frisbee or a soccer ball for the whole family that everyone can join in with. Use the local parks and playgrounds: they are FREE.

Food: everyone "brings a plate" so the cost and work burden doesn't fall on one household.

Sharing time with the children in a separated family: start talking early about access arrangements for the day and if necessary discuss the need for parenting orders with your lawyer well ahead of time. Plan well ahead so that everyone, including the children themselves, knows when and where they are going to be. Make an agreement that the handover arrangements will be adhered to and will be as stress free as possible. Handover is not the time for points scoring or discussing adult conflicts.

Family coming to spend Christmas time: talk about it within your household before Christmas day. Agree on who is coming and how the cost and extra tasks will be managed.

Alcohol: Alcohol in combination with stress, a house full of people or tensions between partners can be a bad mix. Consider a limit on the amount of alcohol that will be available. Provide lots of fruit juice, water, or cordial as an alternative.

Planning for a rainy day: unbelievably and quite unfairly, it sometimes rains over the Christmas period. Have a rainy day plan for the children. Consider what options there are for a break from the household stresses if it's wet. Play a Dvd and set the room up as if it was a movie theatre, complete with popcorn and jaffas.

Friends and family: share your feelings about the Christmas period with a friend, a family member or a Refuge support group. Work out a safety plan so that if anger and violence flare up you already know what to do. Get to know your neighbours: they may be valuable supports and they may also appreciate your kindness at Christmas.

When stress builds up and spills over...

Understand that for some people Christmas can be a very hard time where feelings of grief and loss are heightened.

If people seem angry or fed up, leave them on their own for a while to calm down.

If things are getting on top of you, take some time out. Go for a walk, sit in a quieter place in the house and have some space.

Use the safety plan that you worked out beforehand: you already know what to do to keep your self and the children safe.

Keep your self safe. Find a place in the house where you feel safe. If this isn't possible, get out of the house.

Don't step in between other people who are being physically violent unless you will not be placing yourself at risk.

If a situation gets bad and the safety of either children or adults is compromised, get out of the house and find help. Use the neighbours or your own telephone to dial 111 for Police emergency assistance.

Wishing you a safe and happy Christmas...


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