Turkey with a Side of Tension

This political election has divided many friends and family members. Just to get a break from the heated rhetoric, people have had to unfriend their own parents or siblings on social media. Friendships have been severed and tension is present in the workplace.  No time in recent history has a more divided ideology been present in our culture. We simply do not agree with the “other side” and cannot wrap our thoughts around how the opposing viewpoint can come to the conclusions that they have recently. Now, welcome to the holidays where we are expected to come out from behind our computer or phone screens and interact with people that we previously withdrew from out in cyberspace. Face to face, in the same physical space for hours or even days at a time. Heaven help us! I know many of you are nervous about it and with good reason, honestly.

If you find yourself dreading getting together with your family members who see life very differently than you do, let’s talk about some of your options and a few coping skills that might help.

#1: Just Don’t Go

You do have the right to say that given the tension that is already present because of this election, you are simply going to sit this holiday out. Your relatives might not like that decision but as an adult who has complete domain over themselves, you get to choose where and when you engage with people. This is especially true if these family members have been abusive or very ugly to you about your beliefs. There are consequences for being unkind to people and maybe you choosing to not join them is the feedback they need to hear.

#2 Set Boundaries Ahead of Time

If you decide that going is the best option for you, then maybe consider a family group text or email letting everyone know that you are looking forward to seeing them and under no circumstances do you plan to stay if anyone brings up the election. Weren’t we supposed to stay away from discussions of politics and religion anyways with people? This year has taken that etiquette suggestion and put it on steroids.

#3 Simple Answers

You have decided to go to the festivities, sent your group warning to talk about anything but the election (and religion), and someone decides to ignore your boundaries. What do you do? You could immediately put your fork down, stand up, and walk out but that’s a bit dramatic for most people. Let’s at least try to defuse and redirect before you grab your coat and head home. Simple replies such as the following might be helpful:

“My text (or email) was very clear. I am not talking about this. Thanks.”

“There are many opinions on this topic.”

“We will have to wait and see what happens.” 

“Did you know the Cowboys are 9-1?” (that might only work in Texas but you could reply with a very random fact that shows you are not going to take the bait to get into a political argument.)

The absolute worst thing would be to start talking about the popular vote or protests or God’s specific opinion about America’s election.  Back away, back away, back away.

#4 Don’t Drink Too Much and Don’t Stay Too Long

Get in, get out, and don’t get drunk. That’s actually really good advice for many of life’s situation but especially around the holidays in the middle of the social climate we have now. If you find yourself wondering how this holiday will go, then don’t stay too long and wear out your welcome. Quality and not quantity will be your friend. Maybe by Christmas tempers will have cooled and you can plan for a longer visit. Right now for Thanksgiving, let’s not add any new wounds. It might feel odd being a bit more formal and emotionally distant with your family, but I assure you it is a much better option than allowing emotions to spill over and letting it get out of hand.

I wish you well as we head into this holiday week and don’t forget self-care if your plans include extended periods of time with family who might want to drag you into discussions you do not want to have. My hope is that most people are more obnoxious while hiding behind their social media accounts and will soften as everyone sits down around the table to give thanks. If that doesn’t happen, know that you have the power and right to leave any environment that is not safe for you.

Happy almost Thanksgiving. I am thankful for each of you!



Dysfunction Junction aka Thanksgiving

family counseling

People often ask me if the office schedule is slow during the holidays and actually it’s one of my busiest seasons. That’s undoubtedly for different reasons depending on the client but overall the holidays have a tendency to become like a huge magnifying glass that highlights concerns within our relationships and/or finances.

I will address financial stresses during the holidays in a different blog post but for today, let’s talk about Thanksgiving (t-minus 48 hours and counting) and relationships.

If you are one of those people who absolutely loves getting together with your extended family and it always goes super smooth, no big relationship hiccups, and just can’t relate to people who dread the holidays for worry of what the day together might bring, then you are welcomed to continue reading but this post for all the others!

Alright team, how do we get through Thanksgiving with as little emotional trauma, stress, tears or high blood pressure as possible? I really like the old saying “less is more” in these types of situations; less time, less booze, less conversations about the worthiness of ObamaCare, less people-pleasing, less trying to get everyone to get along, less, less, less!

Our best approach is become like Switzerland; the appearance of being very neutral on all topics. Thanksgiving is NOT the day to hash out some long standing dispute with your mother-in-law, sister, brother, uncle or even the dog. Just be and breath. There are other days for dealing with issues that probably need to be addressed but Thanksgiving day isn’t it.

At the end of Thursday, as you lay your head on your pillow, what do you want to be feeling and what do you want to have happened in the day? Be intentional about your efforts because they won’t just happen. Maybe make a short list of what your best hopes are for the day and hide in the bathroom reading it from time to time if you need a good pep-talk. Is there another family member who desires to have a healthy Thanksgiving that you can partner with to hold each other accountable in keeping to the list of less that I mentioned above? What pre-self care do you need to do before Thursday so you don’t walk into the situation already drained and anxious?

Today is Tuesday so you have the rest of today and tomorrow to get a game plan. God intended families to be a blessing and a place of acceptance. If other relatives are not interested in those things, maybe the change needs to start with those of us who desire good family relationships.

Best of luck to you on Thursday!