Thanksgiving. Sometimes it's a joyous evening celebrating our blessings --- and sometimes it's a bitter battle of outrage and divisiveness. And sometimes it's both (or somewhere in between).
Regardless of your political leanings, the stress of politics is likely to come up during the holidays. To better prepare for the traditional family events up ahead this holiday season, brace yourself to take the high road in the upcoming scenarios that may occur.
Scenario 1: Everyone agrees not to talk politics
There are plenty of other conversations to have with your family that go beyond politics. Make a pact to leave politics at the front door and out of the home. Instead of arguing, indulge in the following to get your minds off of it:
Movies: Talk about the latest popular films and discuss what you liked most about them. Encourage interest in others that didn’t think they needed to see it. While you're together, plan to watch a movie together and enjoy it.
Music: Distract everyone with holly-jolly music. Keep a playlist ready to go to maintain the spirit of the holidays.
Embrace family history: Bring out the old family photo album and reminisce about the past. Share fond memories of those that have passed and ask everyone about their favorite family holiday memories.
Plan to have fun:
Games: Bring games that all ages can enjoy. Whether that's a trusty board game or a fun multiplayer video game.
Crafts: Plan a craft station. There are plenty of quick and easy crafts that can be created with minimal supplies. Create a crafting station with DIY Ornaments or even DIY snow globes to encourage some fun this holiday.
Scenario 2: Everyone Talks About It And The World Doesn’t End
Prepare yourself mentally
You may not agree with a family member on a topic they bring up, but you don’t have to argue about it. If you know that politics will be a hot topic at the holiday table, prepare yourself to react rationally. If you’re already expecting an opposition or argument, practice how you will respond and plan to diffuse a conflicting conversation to make it easier to move onto another topic.
We can’t control what others say or do, but we can control how we react.
Make the mindful decision to stay positive and not let others influence you or ruin your day.
Confide in someone that you trust
You’re probably not alone in your thoughts and feelings. Confide in a relative or friend you can trust to have an honest conversation with. If you have to say something, say it to them and vice versa. Don’t bottle up your feelings or let them get the best of you in a heated situation.
Keep an open mind
Be respectful and listen. Listen to others opinions and resist the urge to lash out if yours oppose theirs. Even if you don’t agree with someone, it may not be worth it to go to war with your grandfather on a political matter. Accept their ideals, agree to disagree, and move on.
If things are heating up, take a break
Don’t hesitate to leave early or take a break from the conversations. Once dinner is finished, try to separate from those that you’re arguing with. Take the time to spend time playing a game with a younger family member or even take the family dog out for a walk. Use this time to cool off and re-enter with your original positive outlook.
Try to be kind, control the urge to argue, and you may just enjoy your family dinner this holiday.
*Lukin Center Psychotherapy is now in 4 convenient locations : Ridgewood, Hoboken, NYC and newly opened Jersey City.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ridgewood and Hoboken, NJ. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.