Family Relationship Stress at Christmas

It may come as no surprise – the latest Relationships Australia survey has found that close to 40% of men and 30% of women experience stress related to spending time with extended family, including in-laws at Christmas.

Around 850 people have responded to the online survey, which is currently available on the Relationships Australia website. The survey will close at the end of December.

“In managing Christmas stress it’s probably best to consider our own expectations of the big day. Our family and our life may not be exactly what we dream about, but we can manage our expectations, plan to look for the positives and focus on enjoying the season with goodwill,” said Alison Brook, National Executive Officer for Relationships Australia.

The mid-month survey results also showed that close to one third of male and female survey respondents indicated that work-life balance factors ‘extremely’ negatively affected their family relationships at Christmas or affected these relationships ‘quite a bit’.  One-third of people reported that financial worries affected their family relationships ‘extremely’ or ‘quite a bit’ at Christmas.

When asked about the effects of increased consumption of food, drugs, alcohol or gambling on their family relationships at Christmas, 16 per cent of men and women reported that these relationships were affected ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’.  Similarly, around one-sixth of women (17%) reported their family relationships were affected ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’ by different expectations, beliefs or values around Christmas.  In contrast, almost one-third of men (28%) reported significant effects on their family relationships due to this factor.

Around one-fifth of men and women responding to the monthly online survey reported their family relationships were affected ‘quite a bit’ or extremely’ by issues relating to children from a previous relationships at Christmas.  Given that this question has lower relevance to survey respondents than other questions, this result indicates a high rate of family relationship stress at Christmas for blended and/or separated families.

The top tips to survive and thrive this Christmas season include:

-    Have realistic expectations of yourself and others – try not to expect people to be what they are not

-    Work together as a team, rather than aim to be the ‘Masterchef’ yourself

-    Find time to ‘chill out’ – get some rest, drink lots of water and take time out every day of the holiday season

-    Practice forgiveness – it will make you feel better

-    Limit your intake of alcohol – behaviour can get out of hand

-    For separated families think of Christmas as a season, not just one day – enable children and adults to spread family visits over a few days

-    If you are alone, plan in advance to do something you enjoy or get together with a friend who is also alone

-    Agree to disagree on issues with friends and family

-    Say thanks to people that help out and focus on the things you are grateful for this year.

The Relationships Australia monthly survey provides a snapshot of how Australians are feeling about issues related to families, community connection, relationships and mental health. The survey is self-initiated and accessed via the Relationships Australia website. The December survey is focused on family stress at Christmas time.

Survey details:

Close to 850 people responded to the Relationships Australia’s online survey from December 1 to December 18.  Almost 80 per cent of survey respondents identified as female, with women outnumbering men in every age group. Almost 90 per cent of survey respondents were aged between 20-59 years. The peak response category related to women aged from 30 to 39 years.

About Relationships Australia:

Relationships Australia provides counselling for individuals couples and families; parenting and relationship education; support for families going through separation; specialist services for young people leaving out of home care, refugee families and Aboriginal communities; workplace counselling and training; employee assistance programs for companies; and training for family support professionals. Relationships Australia is part of a national network of over 150 centres.


To find out more about Relationships Australia services call 1300 364 277.

If you are in crisis phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.