Making merry memories with shared responsibilities

Involve everyone to enrich family festivities

Tuesday, December 19 2023

The magic of the festive season does not happen by itself. Having family or guests to stay, preparing meals, and endless domestic and financial responsibilities can make this a stressful time of year if clear boundaries are not established and the obligations are not shared.

“Most of us look forward to the holiday season as a chance to relax and unwind after the stressful year and spend time connecting with our family and loved ones,” says Lekutla Mphahlele, an occupational therapist practising at Netcare Akeso Gqeberha.

“As this time often involves a lot of family members coming together, often from different parts of the country, this requires a lot of expense, preparation, and effort – usually on the part of the hosts.

“Quite often, all this work and responsibility is absorbed by just one or two people, which can be overwhelming and very stressful for them even if they hide it well from others. If there is no time for relaxation, this can set you up for burnout in the new year when you should be feeling rested after the holidays,” he says.

“People experience more enjoyment and appreciation from something when they have had a role in producing it. These precious times are more memorable and meaningful when we all contribute together.”

From the outset of year-end celebrations, define your boundaries and make others aware of what is expected of them to achieve the magical and harmonious year-end experience you all envision.

“Decide where to focus your responsibilities, and delegate to others to involve them in the process and don’t expect people to volunteer or necessarily realise the extent of the tasks that have to be done,” Mphahlele says.

“If boundaries are not made clear, this can lead to a situation that fosters resentment. Healthy boundaries are needed to sustain and enrich our relationships, and we should have the confidence to communicate honestly with family in this regard while also respecting the boundaries of others.”

Regarding financial responsibilities, Mphahlele suggests discussing practical ways that everyone can contribute to covering the expenses.

“Ideally, saving for the costs anticipated in December should start a year in advance. These days, it is not difficult to set up an account where the whole family can deposit what they can afford each month.

“The final amount sets a budget for the festive season, which is good practice because it is never difficult to find a reason to spend money at this time of year. Without a budget, the holidays can easily become a blank cheque that could lead to debt that must be repaid in the new year,” he warns.

“When you have these healthy family discussions around shared responsibilities in December, please remember to include the kids, especially the teenagers. Not only does it create important awareness and a sense of participation from a young age that will serve them well in future, but it also strengthens connections and good family morale that is invaluable,” he says.

“I am part of a large family, and we have found that when everyone has their part to play, it is really a special opportunity to bond and make the most of the time we have together. When you are peeling potatoes with your cousin and drying the dishes together, for example, you can really get to know them and develop those personal ties that often last a lifetime.

“The simple joy of time shared doing activities together makes better memories than the most expensive gift. It’s possible to make even the most boring tasks fun when you are together as a family. Perhaps put on some music or have a singalong while you work, or ask your grandparents to tell you stories, and be sure to let everyone know their contribution is needed and appreciated,” Mphahlele says.

“Many hands make light work, and many of the chores can be therapeutic as a change from our everyday working lives especially if we enter into it with a positive mindset in the holiday spirit. You may even be surprised to find teenagers spending more time with their family than seeking entertainment elsewhere.  

“When we approach the responsibilities of festivities together as a family with mutually respected boundaries, everyone has the chance to enjoy themselves thoroughly and go back to work, school or life refreshed for the coming year,” he says.

“When we celebrate festivals or holidays, whatever our backgrounds or traditions, one aspect that is universal to all is that the central focus is on family. Let’s embrace every opportunity to connect, share the load and spend quality time making memories together with our loved ones.”

For information about accessing care or for professional help in a mental health crisis, Netcare Akeso is here to help. In the event of a psychological crisis, emergency support can be reached on 0861 435 787, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year including all public holidays and Christmas Day.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is also available to assist and can be reached at or by calling 011 234 4837 or 0800 20 50 26.


About Netcare Akeso
Netcare Akeso operates a network of private inpatient mental health facilities and is part of the Netcare Group. Netcare Akeso provides individual, integrated and family-oriented treatment in specialised inpatient treatment facilities, as well as certain outpatient services, for a range of psychiatric, psychological and substance use conditions. Please visit or contact [email protected] for further information.

In the event of a psychological crisis, call 0861 435 787, 24 hours a day for emergency support. Psychiatrist consultations can be made through Netcare appointmed™, online at or by calling 0861 555 565.
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