The 2020 holiday season is nearly upon us. Some people have even started to decorate for Christmas just to find some comfort in this chaotic year. The holidays might look a bit different this year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, likely, most families will still get together in some capacity, whether in person or by utilizing tools like video chat.
There are certain things most of us can agree on. One of those topics is that this year has been unforgettable in many ways. From a global pandemic to one of the biggest elections the U.S. has ever faced, there will be plenty of subjects to talk about over the holidays. Combine those topics with the standard stress of the holiday season, and you run the risk of stirring up some heated conversation with your family members.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Even if you have passionate opinions about the political state of the country, you can still have a peaceful holiday season with your family. Now that the election is over, it’s time to use the holidays as a way to reconnect and repair those strained relationships, not make them worse.
Set Boundaries for Yourself and Others
The holidays can be stressful every year, even when the state of the world is calmer. In fact, a 2015 survey conducted by Healthline found that only 10% of people experienced no stress during the holiday season.
So, you may need to set boundaries for yourself every year. Or, at the very least, find ways to ‘escape’ and relax, including:
- Stepping away for moments of solitude
- Spending time outside
- Practicing mindfulness
- Being intentionally grateful
This year, however, with tensions so high on so many different subjects, it’s a good idea to set even more boundaries for yourself and others in your family. You control your own boundaries, of course. You can choose (no matter how difficult it might seem) whether to engage in a heated discussion or debate. You can choose to let the things people say get to you.
And, while you can’t completely control how others in your family react or respond, you can make your boundaries clear to them. Be assertive and make sure your rights are known, and learn to say “no”. Setting boundaries isn’t cruel or rude. It’s essential for your mental health.
Be an Active Listener
When you have strong opinions about something, it’s easy to ignore whatever anyone else might have to say. Unfortunately, doing so doesn’t elicit any kind of change or understanding. It’s important to remember a few things;
First, understand that people are constantly growing, learning, and even changing. Some have “political evolutions” in which their ideas might change over time. Trying to force them to change those views, however, will rarely work. Instead, be an active listener and try to understand why they feel a certain way. You don’t have to compromise your own views to be curious about someone else’s, especially when they are a part of your family. In turn, they will likely be more willing to listen openly to what you have to say. You both might gain some new understanding and learn something from each other.
One of the great things about getting together for the holidays is that it gives you a chance to have meaningful conversations. Now, more than ever, social media drives the rhetoric of what people are talking about. Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to share things that aren’t true and say things you might not really mean from behind the comfort of a keyboard.
Having in-person conversations allows you to listen intently and share your views without the rest of the Internet egging you on.
Should You Avoid Hot Topics?
Think about everything that has happened this year. Try to think about everything that has been going on over the last decade. Some of the biggest topics in our country and across the world include:
- Global warming
- Racial equality
- Social justice
- Equal pay for everyone
- Political divide
These are the things that people tend to talk about in gatherings. You might joke around about having a “no-politics policy” at your family gathering. But, that doesn’t mean it will keep anyone from talking about climate change or energy efficiency. It doesn’t mean someone won’t bring up a local protest or movement. Because these subjects affect our world so much, it’s nearly impossible to avoid them.
So, while you can certainly suggest leaving politics at the door this holiday season, it’s better to learn how to communicate respectfully rather than to brush important topics under the rug.
Whether you’re a mother trying to make sure your grown children get along, a college student with a new perspective or you simply want to keep the peace this holiday season, don’t be afraid to speak and listen to your family with love and respect.
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.