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How to Deal with Family Over the Holidays

This election has been a difficult and extremely divisive one to say the least. While most of us would like to put the stress and negative emotions behind us and start working towards positive change, there is nothing that family members love more than to discuss uncomfortable topics at the dinner table. Here are some tips that will hopefully help you survive endless dinners with vocal family members whose political values conflict directly with your own.


1. Don’t enter the conversation ready to be combative

Maybe your family just wants to discuss your college classes, your plans for the future, or whether you have a significant other! Don’t assume that they are looking to discuss politics, or that they are hoping to engage you in a political discussion. If you’re prepared for a combative conversation you’ll likely be on the defensive, which will shut you off from any positive conversation that could occur. Stay optimistic, and aim to have a positive conversation.

2. If the conversation does turn political, keep an open mind

Maybe your family is genuinely just interested in hearing your opinion, or hearing another perspective on issues that are close to their hearts. If they ask and insist on having your input, feel free to share your opinions in a non-judgmental, non-accusatory way. There is no reason for you to feel discouraged from sharing your opinion if it is requested, and no one should judge you for your honest response.


3. Speak up if something offensive is said

Unfortunately, not all political conversations remain friendly and respectful. Although it is difficult and uncomfortable to disagree with or directly confront family members, sometimes it’s necessary to stand up for yourself or others if someone’s values or rights are being questioned. They probably won’t have a sudden change of heart and will just continue to argue with you, but it’s still important to let someone know that their behavior is offensive, and to request that they stop whatever behaviors that offended you in the first place.


4. If nothing changes, remove yourself from the situation

Sometimes, voicing your opinion and requesting a change of behavior just isn’t enough for some people, and they will just continue on with their discussion regardless of your wants or needs. If this is the case, remember that your mental health and well-being is what is most important. Although it may be awkward, you can remove yourself from a conversation or situation that is making you uncomfortable at any time. Putting yourself through a stressful situation that has no positive benefit to you is useless, and will only cause stress and anxiety for you. Walking away doesn’t mean that you are giving in, it simply means that you are prioritizing your feelings and health by removing yourself from a harmful situation.

Hopefully your holiday dinners run smoothly and without any confrontation, but on the chance that they don’t, I hope these tips are helpful. The holidays are meant for spending peaceful quality time with loved ones, and hopefully that’s what they will provide.


Image Credit: The Huffington Post, Outside the Beltway

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