Planning the Christmas you want with your family

Planning the Christmas you want with your family

Zelda West-Meads, agony aunt for You in the Mail on Sunday, has four fab tips for juggling friends, family and me-time through the holidays

If we were all to believe the adverts on TV, Christmas would indeed be a magical time – where somehow the food is cooked to perfection, no one argues, the house is immaculate, everyone loves their presents and life is generally perfect.

We all know that real life isn’t quite like that, though, and that in fact Christmas can be quite a fraught time. Families, spending an unusually long time together over the Christmas week, can get quite ratty with each other.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Christmas should and can be a lovely time to spend with family if you follow some simple and basic principles.

1. Delegate!

You don’t have to do it all yourself. Part of the fun of Christmas is the planning and anticipation but you need some time for yourself too.

  • Don’t aim for perfection – it’s too stressful. If you are one of those people who always has an immaculate house, loves cooking and will happily spend hours in the kitchen making the cranberry sauce from scratch, then great, but if you’re not, ask for help.
  • Plan well in advance and either ask family members to bring puddings or side dishes for the Christmas Lunch or ask them to help on the day.
  • Your partner or spouse should be willing to do their share and everyone can be included – even quite young children can enjoy decorating and laying the table… but mind the glassware!
  • And don’t be afraid to cheat with shop bought extras – it will take a lot of effort out of the day. The same rules apply to Christmas parties. Keep it simple. A party should be fun for the host and hostess too.

2. Negotiate

If you have three generations (or more) under one roof, it’s lovely to have some time to spend all together but it doesn’t have to be all the time. Teenagers, especially older ones, may get quite bored and difficult if they are forced to stay in and spend all their time with grandparents or perhaps much younger cousins. So negotiate.

  • My advice is to let teenagers go out with friends and then they will be more willing to spend the in-between times going on a family dog walk (don’t forget to tie a sparkly bow to the dog’s collar) or joining in family meals.
  • Grandparents may find a Christmas or Boxing Day walk a bit tiring and this is their chance to just relax at home or even have a little snooze.
  • Games are a great way for all the generations to have fun together – try charades or board games or even a round of ‘Wii-Fit’ or ‘Just Dance’. Make it a light-hearted rule that anyone getting over-competitive will be made to do all the washing up.


Christmas is a special time and it’s a great opportunity to let family members know they are loved. Try to make sure everyone feels appreciated.

  • If teenagers are studying hard for exams, let them off the chores in return for good manners and tell them how proud you are of them.
  • Make a fuss of elderly parents or single siblings and if they are irritating, just try and ignore it.
  • Let your partner know how much you love them and, if things have perhaps been difficult with them in recent months, tell them that you really want to have more fun together. Let arguments go and agree that you will both try and be really appreciative of each other over the festive season and beyond.
  • If you find yourself getting cranky, step back, put someone else in charge of organisation for 20 minutes and go and get some fresh air or have a lie down until you feel a bit calmer.


And finally, remember to enjoy it! If you are having fun and laughing, that will be infectious and other people will catch your mood. So relax.

Cheers. And a very Happy Christmas.

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