“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”…But is really all sunshine and rainbows?
The host spends hours cleaning and prepping the house, hoping the relatives won’t open THAT door with all the last minute things shoved in behind it. The guests are frantically running around for those last minute gift add-ons (and will probably opt for a Cadbury favourites box TBH), and are making sure their potato bake doesn’t taste like shit.
Once everyone has arrived, the traditional:
‘Hi how are you?’
‘I’m good thanks, you?’
‘Yeah not too bad, thanks’ are exchanged.
You say hi to that aunt who replies with: ‘Did you rip those jeans yourself? Hahahaha.’
…And if that wasn’t bad enough, your story-telling uncle just won’t shut up about the capitalists, and you’ve only been there five minutes. But hey, who’s counting? And that weird cousin you haven’t seen in years who you forgot existed? He walks in half way through lunch which makes for an unpleasantly awkward interaction.
But okay, let’s be real for a second. While Christmas lunch is a joyous and festive time to spread love and gifts, those extended family gatherings can be stressful and awkward AF.
Jacqueline McDiarmid, practicing family therapist and lecturer, says almost 50 per cent of Aussie’s DREAD that awkward small talk a lot of us know all too well. Partnering with Ancestry in surveying 1,000 Aussies, the study also found 44 per cent of us feel less connected to our families than we were ten years ago.
“There has been a change in expectations about Christmas day itself in Australia,” says Jacqueline, who has extensive experience in couple and family therapy. “It used to be unthinkable that you wouldn’t spend Christmas day with your family, but now many people don’t worry about that as much.”
Jacqueline has also noticed that families who are more connected with each other tend to be the ones that keep up those yearly traditional gatherings, where everyone is expected to attend.
“In previous generations we used to socialise with our family. Now many of us socialise with friends instead and they have become the people who know us best because they see us more frequently,” she says.
There’s a few reasons for this.
According to the family therapist, many Australian’s are just not good at asking questions about other people’s lives, and so these gatherings can be quite awkward at times and therefore difficult to keep up. “We have lost the art of good communication,” says Jacqueline. “This can mean people feel awkward, bored and even resentful meeting up with people who they think have no interest in them and vice versa.”
But Jacqueline assures there are ways to ease the family tension this Christmas, and bring back the tradition and family spirit. In an attempt to aid conversation, Jaqueline and Ancestry have put together 10 ice breakers for you to try out at Christmas lunch. Here are 10 conversation starters for the Christmas lunch:
What are your earliest memories?
How did you celebrate Christmas/ Christmas lunch when you were a child?
What were your parents like and what are your clearest memories of them?
Where were you born? Did you get up to any trouble as a child or teenager?
What was your first job? Why did you choose the career you have/had?
What is the most important advice you got from your grandparents?
Where have you travelled in the world and what was it like travelling back then?
Where did you get your name from? Was it passed down from someone in our family?
What is your favourite legend/story/secret you know of our family?
Who out of your grandparents were you the closest to and why did you connect more with this person?
Jacqueline suggests only choosing a question you feel the most confident in asking and see where that takes you. She also says research into family history could be the key: “One thing every family member has in common is family history,” she says. “Researching family of origin and sharing this information with family members will not only make very lively conversation, but also allow people to connect in a meaningful way.”
Jacqueline even says small talk can suggest you don’t really have an interest in the person or know them very well. “Therefore, small talk can feel hurtful to family members,” says the therapist. And we certainly don’t want that.
So, if we look into our family history a little deeper, and ask interesting, meaningful questions, maybe we can avoid the dreaded small-talk and find some common ground with our family instead of wanting the whole ordeal to be over – and learning a thing or two about our own ancestry along the way can’t hurt!
Feature Image via Giphy.