Thanksgiving could be dicey this year

We have survived another election season and are approaching a family holiday rife with contention even in non-election years.  Families are deciding whether to meet in person, virtually, or just with the household due to the global pandemic.  Families will have to navigate awkward and sometimes heated dialogue about the past election.  How can families celebrate this holiday among all of this stress?


First I would recommend you base your decision on how to celebrate by considering all scientific and public health safety guidelines.  You don’t want to leave the table with not only an overstuffed gut but also a nasty and potentially deadly virus.  Partners need to speak with one another and be clear about their needs.  If you really need to see extended family, how can you do so with safety as the priority?  Would you feel mostly satisfied with a virtual dinner?  How could you make an intimate family dinner exciting or warm to make up for those lost feelings due to having to be separate from family and friends?


Second, I have some tools for you to use to keep the peace around election talk.  I advise you to take care of your needs first.  If a family member is saying things that really ruffle your feathers then you have every right to defend your position.  I am a fan of “I statements” and the compliment sandwich.  


I statements look like, “I feel_________because_________.  Or, When you __________, I feel __________.”  


For example, (to your racist Uncle Al):  I feel hurt when you talk about people of color in that way. I believe everyone should have the same rights.”  You take responsibility for your feelings AND express your beliefs/values.  You also model to your teens how to respond in emotionally charged conversations.  


A compliment sandwich is where you say something nice (compliment), say something you don’t like about the person’s behavior (criticism), and then end with something nice (compliment).


For example, “Uncle Al you have the best laugh! I wish you didn’t tell really offensive jokes.  However I do enjoy spending time with you.”  


If things really get dicey then you can use an “I statement” and leave the room to take care of yourself.  Also be mindful that adding alcohol into the mix (as is custom in some families) may make emotions run hotter.  Try to be careful with your own alcohol use as you are modeling that behavior to your teens as well.


It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if someone wasn’t upset!  (All kidding aside, I hope you are able to feel good inside while being able to spend time with loved ones that may cause you emotional turmoil.)  I hope these two tools will be helpful to you on turkey day.