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How to avoid family arguments at Christmas

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Third sector leaders on how to have a peaceful Christmas

Relationship breakdowns leave 5,000 young people homeless every year in Scotland.

Arguments and conflict in the home can leave many feeling they have nowhere to turn – and Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many families.

That’s why the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) has unveiled a series of tips for defusing conflict in the home.

They have been published as part of a Christmas campaign launched by SCCR, Scotland’s only such national resource which best practice in mediation, conflict resolution and early intervention.

Its festive #StopTalkListen campaign features its top tips for stopping arguments at Christmas – and the group is also asking people to share their tips for reducing conflict.

They have also compiled a series of blogs on the subject – including one from Santa himself!

A series of third sector figures have been sharing their ideas for avoiding stress and argument.

They include David Duke, founder and chief executive of Street Soccer Scotland, children’s commissioner Tam Baillie and Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children In Scotland.

Duke said: “We all know what Christmas is supposed to look like. TV and magazine adverts from all the big supermarkets start showing us the traditional Christmas day scene - families all gathered around a kitchen table with a huge amount of food and drink, with beautifully decorated Christmas tress surrounded by all the latest toys and designer clothes. And of course, the fundamental of Christmas is sharing it with your loved ones.

“But actually, that version of Christmas Day is sadly just something on TV for so many people. Now we know that we say that Christmas is a stressful time, however for some people it’s the worst time of the year. From parents who feel like a disappointment because they can’t afford to buy their children the latest gadget, to children who feel inferior to their friends for not having cool trainers, Christmas can become a melting pot of stress and anxiety. And is where conflict is created.

“I know myself all too well what a tough time the festive season can be for families. My mum and dad actually split up on Christmas Eve so I do genuinely understand what so many people are experiencing right now.

I am a firm believer in the mantra “It’s good to talk”, and I feel that’s the best advice I can give anyone who is feeling overwhelmed, anxious or upset right now. Take a minute, speak to those around you, really listen to them, as no doubt they are also having a hard time and the more honest conversations that can take place, the more conflict can be resolved."

Bailie said if there are children around, play with them. Playing is fun for everyone and as adults, we don’t do enough of it. Kids can help you remember what’s good about Christmas time. If you feel frustration rising, take yourself out of the room for a wee break.

He also says that talking is better than bottling things up but listening is even better and extolls the calming virtues of blowing air out slowly through your lips like you’re blowing out a candle.

He adds: “Never criticise the cook - it’s a tough job making a Christmas dinner and no one wants to wear the gravy.”

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

“Also, 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.”

She added: “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.”