Not always a merry time

SIENA YATES
Last updated 13:42 20/12/2012
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It's that time of year, which for most means a break and some family fun, but for some, Christmas is the toughest time of year. 

Unfortunately, the stress and pressure of Christmas can have severe effects on families and those that deal with the fall out said focusing on the positives can make it that much worse for those experiencing the negative. 

Christmas can heighten feelings about how connected or not we are to our own families, said Child, Youth and Family Waikato operations manager, Sue Critchley.

''Especially when we're surrounded by messages about what a happy family Christmas is supposed to look like, and compare our own circumstances to ideals of bright happy celebrations,'' she said.

''These feelings combined with worries about paying for presents...can create pressure points. Everybody wants what's good for their kids, but sometimes what children need can get lost in the noise of our own worries.''

Ariana Simpson of Te Whakaruruhau Maori Women's Refuge said their team deals with the inevitable fall out of that pressure every year and, ''it's not a matter of if we get a call out, it's how many''. 

''Things are quite difficult for families as it is...and when you have got domestic violence, the pressure's really on for families to make ends meet,'' she said. 

She said advertisements around this time put a lot of pressure on parents to buy the things their children see and want but it's not possible, particularly for the Waikato with the loss of jobs at the Huntly mines and other industry closures.

While the refuge usually sees is a ''lull'' at Christmas, rather than being due to the positive effects of family time and festivities, it is more the ''calm of the storm''. 

''How our Christmas goes depends on how their Christmas goes - how much alcohol is consumed, how much stress there is in the family. If anythings going to make you break, it's going to be Christmas."

But even something as simple as not seeing your loved ones when every body else is, can be harrowing, particularly for those in our society which sadly, people can forget about.

Hamilton Age Concern manager, Gail Gilbert said while most older people are pretty resilient, Christmas can still be rough if the family don't visit, and worse if they can't make their own plans.

''If they're not expecting anyone they will often make their own plans, with friends or spending the day quietly doing something, but most clubs and places they would normally go to are closed for Christmas and New Years, so they're kind of hit with a double whammy, so it's quite a lonely time for a lot of people,'' she said.

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''Everyone thinks of xmas as a big family time and if you're on your own it hurts just that wee bit more. 

''But the main message to create change is to talk, and ask for help. 

''If you know someone who is struggling, or who is going to be on their own over the holidays just go and have a chat with them, offer a hand or an invitation. Just be friendly to people, it makes a huge difference.''

- © Fairfax NZ News

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