The holiday season is here, which means spending time and catching up with our loved ones. For many, this is a time to talk about what is in the latest news or to discuss politics. It is more than common to have families who hold different opinions, beliefs, and values. For some, it can be draining to discuss politics and can often times feel like a debate. Whether you are in the mood to talk politics or do not want to talk about it at all, either way is okay. It is important to understand how to communicate in a healthy way to be able to set proper boundaries and engage in meaningful conversations with your family members.

Leaving Politics Out

I do not want to talk about politics on Thanksgiving… What do I do?

Set expectations

You know your family best. If you want to have peace of mind that politics will not be brought up during your family gathering, it is okay to set expectations. Whether you are hosting or not, letting family members know ahead of time that you would not like to discuss politics at the gathering is a great way to set boundaries and avoid any conversations that may spark up tension.

You do not have to engage

So, you set expectations, but Uncle Sam or Aunt Joanna started a political debate… What now? You do not have to engage. If it is important to you that you focus on spending time with family and not expending energy on political conversations, it is okay to not engage. Here are a few examples of what you can say:

“I appreciate you wanting to discuss this with me but right now is not a good time.”

“I respect your feelings and opinions, but I would like to focus my energy on a different topic of discussion.”

“Thank you for sharing your thoughts about (xyz)… Hey how was your recent trip to Hawaii?”

Talking Politics

I do not mind politics being brought up but some of my family members have different views… How do I navigate this?

Many individuals hold different opinions, thoughts, and values. Most likely, there is going to be at least one family member you do not completely agree with regarding politics. If you enjoy discussing politics or have to navigate different opinions, here are a few ways to have a healthy conversation:

Listen non-judgmentally: This can be a tricky one but despite having different opinions, it is respectful and insightful to actively listen to what the other person is saying and to not be judgmental. Everyone has their own experiences in life that lead them to their own beliefs and opinions. Listening with the intent to learn and question can guide the conversation.

Ask questions: This is a great time to learn more about the topic of discussion and your family member as well. Be engaging and ask questions. Learn about the other persons perspective and see what similarities and differences are there. More than likely, you may find some common ground on some topics.

Use humor: Humor is a great tool to ease up tense or tricky conversations (in the right situation). Crack a joke with common ground to ease and lighten up the conversation.

Take a breather: Step outside or politely excuse yourself if feelings or emotions start to feel intense. It is okay to step aside and reground yourself before heading back into the conversations.

Acknowledge different opinions: Trying to change each other’s minds on a topic can cause unwanted stress on both sides of the conversation. Simply acknowledging differences in opinion is okay. It is perfectly fine to “agree to disagree” and still love your family members.

Navigating COVID-19

Aside from politics, COVID-19 may be another topic that can be challenging to navigate in terms of family gathers and vaccination status. It is natural for us to want to be surrounded by people who are similar to us including interests, values, and even vaccination status.

Some of the same tips above still apply.

Set expectations: Let your family members know ahead of time what your expectations are regarding masks, safety precautions, and getting together with others who are vaccinated and/or are not vaccinated.

Avoid judgment: Everyone is navigating through the pandemic in a way that works for them. Despite whether or not your family members are vaccinated or are taking measures to avoid COVID-19 it is important to be respectful of others personal decisions.

Expand your options: If there are family members who are unable to attend or does not comfortable gathering in-person. Try a blended gathering of virtual and in-person. What matters most, is being able to spend quality time with your loved ones whether that is in-person or through zoom!

Just a reminder: Enjoy the moment!

Be present: Engaging in conversations, enjoying good food, and playing games with loved ones is what makes holidays fun. Be present and actively engage with your family. The time spent with them will be greatly

Be thankful: Expressing gratitude is what thanksgiving is all about. Take some time to remind yourself and others what you are thankful for!

Final words from Marina Edelman, LMFT

Navigating difficult conversations or topics can be a challenge. It can be helpful to seek out a therapist who can help you build on your communication skills and learn how to navigate family challenges. My associates and I have worked with many families to help them work through difficult unique challenges.

Marina Edelman | 818.851.1293 | | Westlake Village, CA