The Twelve Days of Christmas Conflict Resolution

Being cooped up with the relatives for a day or more can lead to arguments. SCCR gifts everyone ideas, tips and advice on how to have a conflict-free Christmas.

So, Christmas is finally in sight. How do you feel about that? Happy? Or perhaps a little dread? Being cooped up with the relatives for a day or more can lead to sparks. Disappointed expectations, old family arguments, thoughtlessness – they can all lead families turn what should be one of the happiest days of the year into one of the most fraught.

Never mind. Cyrenians Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution is here to gift you some ideas on how we can work towards a great Christmas.

On kitchen duties

Mum, or maybe Dad, or both, has spent most of the day in the kitchen. Now might be the time she, he or they would appreciate a hand. Why not try agreeing jobs at the start of the day? Share the tasks. That way you all get to enjoy the day.

I’m so tired!

The kids are so excited, they’ve barely slept for a fortnight. Parents are going to have to accept the kids might not get as much sleep as they should the night before – and indeed neither might they! Try and get the kids to agree to a rough time to get up and open presents together. If it’s early, you can always suggest the family takes an afternoon nap after Christmas dinner in front of the TV.


There’s so much content on various platforms these days, you’d think there’d be something for everyone – but maybe not. Maybe you want to watch something going out live, like the Christmas Day Doctor Who special. But not everyone likes sci-fi. What to do? Try a wee bit of planning in advance to see what’s on when and try to reach a compromise.

Don’t like your present?

Not socks again? Present-buying can be an art – and not everyone has mastered it. Okay, so you didn’t get what you wanted. You’re disappointed, but please remember, it really is the thought that counts. Say ‘thank you’; it is Christmas after all.


The pressure is on to have the perfect Christmas. But is it really worth getting into debt for? Be realistic. Set yourself a budget and agree how much to spend on gifts for each other. You could also try making some decorations or baking gifts for each other, which doubles as a fun activity to do with other members of your family.

What should we do next?

Families often argue what to do when together. With such a range of ages and experience, there will be disagreements. Maybe one person wants to play a boardgame they got for Christmas; someone else wants the family to go out for a walk together. Compromise is key. Try a variety of activities through the day, giving everyone an opportunity to try out what they’re interested in. And be respectful even when what you’re doing is of no interest to you. People can feel wounded when what they love is snubbed.


At Christmas, many like to have a drink because ‘tis the season to be jolly. But everything in moderation, right? Try keeping people hydrated by offering tasty non-alcoholic cocktails as well. Why not also have water on the table with the Christmas meal?

Take a hike

Tensions can run high when families are cooped up together for a long period of time. Suggest going for a short walk to a local park. That way you all get to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and let the kids runs off some steam.

Play some games

Mix things up a bit. Turn off the TV for an hour and play some family-friendly games! If you don’t have old (or new, it is Christmas, I suppose) board games like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuits, you can always play games that rely on using your wits, like Charades or I Spy. Remember to have fun.

Eye contact

Pay attention to the people who are talking to you. Don’t get distracted by whatever appeared in your stocking or, worse, your phone. Christmas is about the people in the room, and too many texts, tweets and swipes can take away from that. No one’s saying you can’t look at your phone, but everything in its right place. Focus on the person in front of you and don’t get consumed by all the Christmas distractions.


Possibly too late for this tip this year but one can bear it in mind for Christmas 2024. Due to limited table space for Christmas dinner, probably best to get invites you receive for Christmas in early, and just as important to return your answer early. You don’t want to cause tension at the Christmas dinner because you sent your invite in too late for the host to get enough food for everyone.

Tidying up

Who’s doing the washing up? Who’s going to take the bottles to the recycling bin? Who’s going to bundle the ripped-up wrapping paper into a bin bag? Best tip? Don’t nag. Instead, give incentives and rewards for tidying up quickly.

And now the most important tip of all – have a merry Christmas and a happy new year!