I’m dreading the tension over this holiday period

I am dreading this Christmas because there has been so much tension in my family. My father passed away two years ago and ever since there has been a lot of conflict between my siblings and me.

I never really had a good relationship with them and I find that they can be rude to my husband and they make subtle jokes about our relationship.

My mother has asked that we all have Christmas dinner with her because she is lonely. I really don’t want to as we had our first child this year. I want to have my own Christmas in peace with my husband and daughter.

But I know I will be forced into going. My husband is vey understanding and will go along with what I decide but my two older brothers always treat me like I’m a child and talk down to me.

I really don’t want to upset my mother but I know if I go there it will be stressful and I just want to have a nice Christmas. Am I being selfish?

Much of what you describe here happens to so many of us over the festive period. Sure, Christmas can be a truly wonderful time but it can also place an incredible toll on our financial and mental health. Over the course of the next week, many of us are forced back into contact with some people we would rather avoid.

The real challenge for you is to find your voice here. It sounds like you are the youngest of two older siblings, there is no doubt about it; families are complicated systems and roles get assigned so early in the formation of the family.

Being the youngest might mean that you have had to fight harder to have your voice heard. Remember we teach people how to interact with us. If you give in and allow yourself to be talked down to it is going to negatively impact your view of yourself and your Christmas. Don’t allow this to happen.

Your mother has been through a very difficult few years. Her husband has passed away. I wonder would it be possible to meet your siblings before Christmas day and explain how you experience their company? There maybe something that they would like to say to you too.

A conversation like this might help to clear the air before you all slip back into your childhood roles. You have a child now, so you will teach that child how to navigate the world and how to manage difficult situations and people they will inevitably encounter.

There is a lot of learning in the next few days here for you. I feel like this could be a special learning moment if you manage to find your voice and use it in a way that is respectful but also authoritative.

Never allow some one to position you in a role you don’t want to be in. When we give away our agency like that we can become very low in ourselves because we know we are not being true to who we want to be.

This can cause so much upset in our lives and why, I imagine, you really want to avoid going to your mother’s house this Christmas. But it is about time you taught your brothers how to interact with you as an adult.

Just because your brothers are older than you does not give them the right to treat you or your husband with disrespect. Some things are non negotiable, this is one.

When someone says a subtle negative remark, it is subtle because they lack the moral fibre to say it straight out. So you have to learn how to manage that.

You have a few choices; you can ignore it (which most of us do and hate ourselves for it) you can get angry and fight back (which will ruin the day and upset your mother) or you can calmly ask them to explain it, say something like; ‘what does that mean?’ ‘I’m missing the joke there can you explain it to me?’

People who are passive aggressive are insecure. They lack the courage to say what they want to say so they rely on subtlety. Don’t give them that space. Acknowledge it and let your siblings see that it is no longer acceptable behaviour.

This just might be the Christmas you change the dynamic of your relationship with your siblings. Remember a sibling relationship is the longest relationship we have as humans. And to answer your question, no it is not selfish to want to have your first Christmas with your new baby free from stress.

Christmas can be a challenging time for all of us. Try not to get pulled back into those old negative patterns of communication. When you step into a room full of your loved and loathed ones take a breath, this time next week it will all be in the rear view mirror and your new wonderful life awaits.

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