What will family gatherings be like during the holidays? The presidential race has made it a tough year on relationships between family members who don’t agree on politics. That rawness is still going to be around during the holidays as we gather to celebrate the season. Plus, there are all the typical host of issues that can rise to the top when families get together—unresolved issues that seem to follow families year after year.
It’s time to remember that we are now the adults in the room. We can’t expect parents or grandparents to set the tone for peaceful, happy family holiday get-togethers. It’s up to us. In fact, the perfect holiday present we can give family this year isn’t one wrapped in sparkly red-and-green ribbon, but rather one lovingly wrapped in good intentions and positive attitudes.
When the multi-generations gather during the holidays, follow these simple guidelines to keep relationships — and gatherings– peaceful.
Cease to complain or argue when you hear something you don’t like.
It may be hard, but hold your tongue. Change the subject, go to your happy place. Do whatever it takes to stop an argument before it starts. No one is going to change someone else’s mind. That’s not to say that families should never discuss important, serious issues from time to time, but gatherings that are supposed to be joyous are not the place. If the health, finances or care of an older relative needs to be addressed, for example, set a separate meeting time.
Take responsibility for your situation.
If you don’t like what someone says and you feel your blood pressure rise, walk away. You may not have control over the words and actions of your crazy Uncle Harry, but you have control of what you say and do. And by the way, as a side benefit, keeping your blood pressure under control is good for your cardiovascular system, which leads to a longer, healthier life.
Avoid over indulging in alcohol.
Although the spiked eggnog may be tasty, most of us have not-too- pleasant memories of when we, our friends or relatives drank too much. Alcohol is often used as a defense mechanism to get through uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately, overdoing it tends to bring out the worst in people. Don’t go there.
Find common ground.
Focus on whatever you can genuinely appreciate and can agree on. It could be the great taste of your mom’s pumpkin pie, catching up on family member activities or celebrating the addition of a new baby niece or nephew. With just a tiny bit of effort, you can find something of value and joy that can be shared with others.
If the subject turns to politics and there is no way out, listen to what is being said and look for the piece of information (not matter how small) that you can agree with. Despite opposite political views, basic common goals about our family’s health, safety and security are surprisingly similar. Remind yourself that your family members care about our country, as well as the future of those near-and- dear, and want that future to be every bit as good as you do. You may just have different ideas on how to reach those common goals to assure a happy future.
This approach takes determination and persistence. There may be family members that will test your patience and fortitude. Stay strong. You have the opportunity to be the role model for your family’s younger generations. It is well worth taking that lead—thereby making your small yet meaningful contribution toward peace on earth, goodwill towards all.