November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving and Guests with Political Differences: 5 Tips to Keep Things Peaceful

Written by Rachel Eddins

People having a Thanksgiving dinner

This year’s election has been more contentious than most. Everyone’s still on edge and feelings are raw on both sides. Lucky you, you get to spend Thanksgiving with all these people. Before you cancel Thanksgiving altogether because you don’t know how to handle these political differences, try these 5 tips instead to keep the peace.

1. Don’t Engage
Just because Uncle Joe is talking about why he thinks Trump will be the worst president ever and you believe the complete opposite (or vice versa), that doesn’t mean you have to debate him with all the reasons you think he’s wrong. Neither of you will be able to change the other’s mind during Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t even have to engage in the discussion in the first place. Your best bet is to mumble a polite “could be” and focus on your plate or ask who he thinks will win the next Super Bowl.

2. Set Up No-Politics Zones
Your odds of declaring the whole house a politics-free zone probably won’t work. If you’re hosting, you have every right to declare the dinner table off-limits for debating politics. Or maybe you’re okay with letting them discuss politics during appetizers and drinks, but want to cut off the subject during dinner. The point is not to curtail anyone’s right to free speech, but to set up safe spaces for those who would rather talk about anything but politics.

3. Start Conversations on Other Topics Instead
Even if it seems like everyone in your house is talking about politics, you’ll probably notice that some people aren’t. Zero in on them and start a conversation about an interesting topic that has nothing to do with politics. For many of us, opportunities to sit and talk to our extended families are few and far between. Don’t let this one pass you by. Ask your great-aunt to tell you stories about when she was a young wife or ask your grandmother to tell you how she makes her famous sweet potato pie. Your relatives are a treasure trove of knowledge and they have great stories to tell. Take the time to find out more about them.

4. Find Ways to Stay Calm and Collected
Thanksgiving is a day when you’re surrounded by rich, delicious foods. You may have many opportunities to turn to food for comfort on a day like today, but challenge yourself to choose healthier coping options instead. Refuse to raise your voice in a political discussion. Remember, the only person you can change is yourself. If you feel like your blood pressure is rising, choose to take a walk instead. If you have relatives with young children, take those kids along on the walk—it will help them burn off some of their energy. Just make sure to pass up that extra glass of wine. Alcohol is likely to make the situation worse rather than better.

5. Focus on Thankfulness
Families can either be our greatest blessing or our greatest curse. For most of us, our relationships with our extended families are a mix of good and bad. We may be bound by blood, but that doesn’t mean we’ll share opinions. Political differences are just one of the ways in which we disagree with our relatives.

But Thanksgiving is also a great time to remind yourself of the spirit of the day: being thankful. Having enough food to eat, a comfortable place to call home and a variety of clothes to wear are blessings that not everyone in the world is lucky enough to have. Regardless of whether spending time with your family on Thanksgiving has minor frustrations or is something you’ll need to discuss in therapy, it’s important to remember how very many reasons we have to be thankful.

Support is Available

The holidays can be a stressful for a number of reasons. Whether you need support or you’re interested in relationship or family counseling, we can help. Contact us at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online with a therapist.

Blog Categories