The expatriate lifestyle means you can't always spend December 25th with everyone you love, but there are sensitive ways to address it
4 December 2018| Last updated on 4 December 2018
All credits: PA
Whether you're staying in the UAE, or travelling but can't see everyone, how do you tell some of your family you won't see them this Christmas?
Breaking such undesirable festive news can be tough, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve been apart for Christmas.
But circumstances change – people move abroad, and people meet new partners and want to spend Christmas with them instead of their parents, for instance. Or, separation and new relationships can mean the often-complicated dynamics of step families.
Whatever the reason, while you might know where you want to spend Christmas, you may well have no idea how to break it to the family you won’t be seeing.
Relationship counsellor Rachel Davies suggests thinking about what’s going to work for you and their family as early as possible, so everyone has the time to make appropriate plans.
Plus, making early decisions means you’ll avoid accidentally agreeing to do things you didn’t really want to because you didn’t have a clear reason.
Here are 10 tips to make telling family you’re not spending Christmas with them a little easier:
1. Honesty is the best policy
Lying can create many more problems in the long run. Davies says that rather than just blurting out the truth, it can make it easier for all parties if you phrase your news in a gentler way.
“Think about the best way the message is going to be received,” she says. “For example, saying ‘We want to have Christmas Day in Dubai this year’ may go down better than ‘I can’t cope with travelling for Christmas Day again.'”
2. Don’t get angry
Try to remember that if relatives react angrily to the news you’re not spending Christmas with them, underneath the anger there are often feelings of sadness and even abandonment. So try not to rise against their anger, if you can.
3. You can’t please everyone
Reassure relatives that you wish there was a way to spend the holiday with everyone, but you have no option but to make a choice. Davies says you need to be “realistic, and understand you can’t please everyone all the time”. If you're travelling home, rushing around trying to fit in multiple visits on Christmas Day is likely to stress you out and could ruin the day.
4. Give a little
If travelling home, keep in mind certain members of your family. Particularly if the relatives are elderly and live nearby. Consider saying you’ll pop in to say hello on Christmas Day, even if you can’t stay for dinner.
5. There's always next year
Offer to visit your relatives on another significant holiday occasion, or promise you’ll spend Christmas with them next time.
6. Find a different date to celebrate
Diffuse the tension by suggesting an ‘alternative Christmas Day’ with them, either before or after Christmas, and pull out all the stops to make that visit really special with a big dinner, and maybe a few more little gifts.
Davies says: “Christmas doesn’t just have to cover the one day – by arranging to meet up with people the weekend before or after or over New Year, you’re spreading things out and aren’t then saying you won’t see people.”
7. Be in touch on Christmas Day
Offer to call or video chat to make sure you share some quality time – do it while you’re opening presents from them if possible.
8. Suggest an alternative
If going to the house of a particular family member feels stressful, tell them you’d love to meet for a Christmas drink or a walk in the park.
9. Suggest a festive brunch
If your parents are separated and you’ve agreed to have Christmas dinner with one of them, offer to have brunch with the other if they don’t live too far apart.
10. Home alone
If you’re not spending Christmas with your family simply because you fancy a quiet day, don’t be ashamed to make it clear that this year you’re just going to take it easy at home without any running around and trying to keep everyone happy.