You Don't Have to Be the Perfect Family to Enjoy the Perfect Christmas; YOUR LIFE:SURVIVING CHRISTMAS: Stress over Finance, Food, Visitors and Having Fun Is All Part of Coping with the Festive Season - for Families and Single Parents

Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), December 12, 2005 | Go to article overview

You Don't Have to Be the Perfect Family to Enjoy the Perfect Christmas; YOUR LIFE:SURVIVING CHRISTMAS: Stress over Finance, Food, Visitors and Having Fun Is All Part of Coping with the Festive Season - for Families and Single Parents


Byline: By Karen Hambridge

A HAPPY family Christmas, generations sitting around the dining table, tucking into turkey and merrily munching on mince pies.

It's the sort of scene often trotted out on our TV screens over the festive season. Think the Royle Family Christmas or even the Simpsons putting aside their dysfunction for a day.

At Christmas the expectation is that everyone is happy or should be happy. Families should want to be together, should smile and laugh and play games and revel in their close company.

In this modern world of fractured families, seasonal bliss may often be the exception rather than the rule so how can we survive Yuletide and the stresses and strains it thrusts upon us?

Julie Sanders, image consultant and life coach based in Chapelfields, Coventry, said families might avoid relationship tensions by accepting that the "perfect" happy family doesn't exist.

Even those families who appear perfect are likely to have undercurrents of unease.

After accepting that, also accept that visits to family over Christmas may be expected and if you can't enjoy them then at least endure them with good grace - after all it's only once a year.

"If we were more realistic about what we want from Christmas and maybe have lower expectations, then it wouldn't leave us open for disappointment," said Christine.

"The thing is we all have this image in our head of a family Christmas with all of our family around us, eating, drinking and making merry.

"We all have this expectation that we should be gloriously happy simply because it's Christmas.

"And we also have the idea that everyone else is having a better time than us. What we need to do is not to get hung up on what others are doing. Concentrate on what you are doing and what you want.

"And be honest with yourself. Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean everything is perfect and doesn't mean suddenly you will be any more cheerful than any other time.

"Accept it for what it means to you. Enjoy the religious aspect, enjoy the shopping, enjoying the eating and drinking, enjoy it for whatever pleasures it offers you."

One of the main areas which feels the strain at Christmas is money.

Families, especially single parent families with young children, can be the hardest hit financially.

A third of all single parent families survive on gross incomes of less than pounds 200 a week which doesn't leave a lot of leeway for seasonal splurging.

The pressure to buy bucketloads of presents for the kids can be overwhelming. There's always that must-have toy.

It's difficult to say no and every parent wants to spoil their child but surviving a tantrum at Christmas is infinitely better than facing huge debts come the New Year.

Mark Stanyer, bureau services manager at Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau, said: "Plan ahead and draw up a personal budget, working out the priority payments which have to be met such as rent and council tax.

"Work out how much you can afford after that and stick to that budget. Try to avoid expensive forms of credit such as store cards.

"If you do need to rely on credit there are lots of credit cards with 0 per cent interest. If necessary, keep swapping cards to get the best deals.

"Don't be taken in by doorstep lenders as interest rates will undoubtedly be large although they may advertise low weekly or monthly payments.

"And avoid taking any loans secured on your property because if you have difficulty paying your home is at risk."

With all credit or loan agreements Mark advises you study the small print and be careful you aren't paying for services you don't need.

"Often pensioners or people who are not working are sold insurances which include redundancy cover.

"Be aware of terms and conditions."

Although it's best to plan ahead and start Christmas shopping early there can be advantages to leaving things until the last minute if you are prepared for a a bit of a rush. …

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