With the country so hotly at odds, if you’re worried that your family holiday 2018 might turn into a political combat zone, you’re not the only one. We spend so much of the holiday season trying to avoid heated conversations, that sometimes we don’t have time to think about the conversations we’d like to have instead.
There is a time and place for contentious political conversations, and there is a time for arguments to be had, but the holidays are rare a chance to celebrate each other, to check in on the people we love, and to remember how we’re more alike than we are different. So instead of talking about all the political conversations, we want to avoid, let’s talk about the conversations we don’t want to miss.
Read on for our thoughts on essential holiday conversations to have instead of political arguments.
1. Check in with each other
The holiday party is the perfect place to check in with your friends and family and see how they’re doing because we never really know until we ask. Even as cheery as they’re supposed to be, for many people the holidays can be a lonely time, especially for those who have recently suffered a loss or hardship, and for older relatives who may be living on their own. You may even find the holidays blue yourself. Don’t let loneliness be a taboo topic this year.
This is also a great time to see what’s changed in your family’s lives since last you spoke. What’s new? What are they excited about? What are they struggling with or what is challenging them in their daily lives? Staying connected, even to the people we care about, isn’t always easy work, and now is an excellent chance to catch up on it.
2. Reaffirm your affections
Sometimes the easiest way to remind someone else how much they mean to you is just by rehashing your happy memories together. Try to think of a story you share with each of the guests at the holiday gathering. That way, If the conversations start to venture into dangerous territory, you can turn it around just by saying, “Hey, do you remember that time when…”
Our old stories are good for a laugh, but they also remind us that we’re family, that we have history, and even when we find ourselves at opposite sides of the table, we’re in this thing together.
3. Express gratitude
Gratitude isn’t always easy to summon, but it’s in those times when appreciation is challenging to come by that it’s also most important. Studies have shown that gratitude improves not just your mood, but your mental health, your physical health, and your overall happiness.
This year make a conscious effort to focus on gratitude. When someone asks you what you’re thankful for, come up with something specific and meaningful. Don’t stop at what you’re grateful for; share exactly why you’re so appreciative, and turn it into a real conversation. Nothing crushes a bitter argument as swiftly as shared gratitude.
4. Celebrate each other
Bring all your good news to the holiday dinner. Whenever the conversation grows tense, you can choose to celebrate instead. Show your family you see all the hard work they’re doing. Maybe a brother is doing well in school, or a sister is doing well at sports, or a parent has started a new job, or maybe Grandma’s taken up painting again. Whatever the good news is, whatever the good work, you can put a spotlight on it - we all need to feel like someone is rooting for us.
5. Make plans
Holiday gatherings are an excellent chance to check in and reconnect with the people we care about, but it’s also a great chance to make sure we stay connected. Use your holidays to make plans with the people you don’t see enough of so that you can remain in touch. The plans we’re likeliest to keep are the specific ones. So instead of saying,” We should get together sometime,” invite someone to a movie, or to try a new restaurant, or to get coffee on Wednesday morning. It’s easy to disappear from each other’s lives, but you can use this chance to make sure you keep in touch.
We want to know what you’ll talk about instead of politics at your holiday gathering. How do you keep disagreements from becoming arguments? Join the conversation online using the hashtags #Bewell, #Bethere, and #Beheard.
If you need someone to talk to there are teens at Teen Line who want to listen. Call 310-855-4673, or text TEEN to 839863. Teen Line is open for calls from 6-10 PM California time. Another contact is Oregon Youth Line – Call 877-968-8491 or text TEEN2TEEN to 839863.