Avoiding the Holiday Conflict

During the Christmas and Holiday season, stress is a part of the game but it doesn't have to be.

The Holiday season is once again upon us. For most families, it’s the time of year when the world is filled with joy, laughter, giving, endless shopping, peace on earth and of course, good will toward men.

For others, the Holiday season can also be a time of stress, grief, conflict and near financial ruins. Essentially, it all hinges upon your perception of Christmas. I am someone who was raised in a lower-class, single-parent household. My family survived on government assistance and handouts from my mother’s family members. Christmas was just another day for us and a really good day if the cable bill had been paid.

My husband, on the other hand, was raised in a middle-class family. He and his siblings wrote out their Christmas wish lists every year and received virtually everything on them from their parents. We find ourselves at odds, merely every year around this time. Thanksgiving is approaching and he’s ready to “break the bank” and buy all the gifts he can get his hands on. I, on the other hand, am stubbornly playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge and only wanting to buy the necessities.

After speaking with a mutual friend on Christmas Day 2014, we realized that we were not the only couple in America to struggle with such a yuletide dilemma. She called to wish our family a merry Christmas while simultaneously making a sarcastic comment saying “Tis the season to be in unnecessary revolving debt”.

She further explained that she and her husband were currently at odds due to his obsession of showering their children and family members with Christmas gifts and her adamant disapproval of his compulsion. She felt that the children really didn’t need any more toys or clothes, all their family members were hard to buy for and in return they usually regifted something useless like a fruitcake to them in return and she was just happy to have a few days off from work. Her background is reflective of mine and her husband has a background identical to my husbands.

Living in these extremes is unhealthy and can make for some very “un-merry” Christmases in any relationship. It is important that couples remember to disagree without being disagreeable. Meeting each other halfway through compromise is extremely important. Agreeing upon a budgeted amount and not exceeding it is a proactive measure to take.

Couples sometimes open a Christmas Club Account shortly after New Years and cash it out before Thanksgiving of that same year. Savings accounts such as these will allow you to deposit a small amount per month or per pay period. Over the span of eleven months, it will have accrued enough to cover your holiday expenses.

Making decisions on gift buying may also cause friction in some relationships, especially when it comes to your children. It is imperative that you both take into account the needs and the behavior of the individual child.

For example, you may want to reconsider when deciding to spend hundreds of dollars on a child who has behavioral problems or one who is disrespectful to adults. No one wants to literally execute the proverbial “Naughty or Nice List” method, but there should be some limitations implemented.

Children should understand the concept of receiving gifts, as well as giving them. In years past, our children have boxed up all of their toys from the previous year and taken them to the local Salvation Army and also bought new gifts for those children. They have also sponsored elderly residents at local nursing homes and inmates at the local correctional facilities in Angel Tree programs.

When it comes to shopping for friends or relatives who are hard to buy for, we have always found that gift cards seem to work out best. Just agree on an amount, purchase a gift card from their favorite eatery or clothing store and call it a day.

Above all, it may sound cliché, but always remembering the true reason for the season, abiding in love and a little compromise should help us all to avoid the holiday conflict.

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