CHRISTMAS conjures up images of loving, happy families enjoying a relaxing day in festive harmony—but often that’s not the case.
Financial worries, family conflict and too much alcohol can make Crimbo stressful for parents and kids, Kids Helpline manager Tony FitzGerald says.
As schools close for the summer, and Christmas looms, stress levels rise.
“Family relationships is the second most frequent reason why children and young people contact us throughout the year, but at Christmas time there are more kids at home and mums and dads struggling to put Christmas celebrations together,” he says.
“People need to acknowledge Christmas is going to be tiring and give themselves permission to feel that, rather than maintaining a perfect facade,” Annabeth Bateman, from Fremantle’s Headspace, says.
The non-government organisation says there is a spike in young people seeking help in the new year.
“Young people are just trying to get through Christmas…and it’s not until after it hits,” Bateman says.
She says school leavers in particular can struggle.
“It’s an odd transition, they are trying to figure out how to be an adult…they have new freedoms and no structure.”
Which makes it important to keep to a routine.
“To get up at a regular time…and do something each day.”
People put too much pressure on themselves and those around them over Christmas preparations, Ms Bateman says, recommending a “Chillaxmas” approach.
“You can re-imagine your day, it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been done.”
Secret Santa can reduce the pressure over buying for everyone, she says.
Getting kids to make their own gifts reduces costs, and can result in a more meaningful present.
“Or donating to charity takes the pressure off choosing and giving the perfect gift,” Ms Bateman says.
And too much sherry can make things worse.
“In a family situation keep an eye on how you are drinking and what other people are drinking.”
Headspace supports people aged 12 to 25, and its eheadspace is open over Christmas on 1800 650 890, or you can web chat at eheadspace.org.au.
Kids can also call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or Lifeline 13 11 14.
by JENNY D’ANGER