With the Holiday season in full swing, it’s more than likely that you’re going to find yourself at a family gathering or social event with the expectation that you will have to, well, socialize. For most, these gatherings are full of wonderful and warm interactions with loved ones and are part of what makes the Holiday season so special.
For some, however, these gatherings can be an overwhelming experience full of political debates, racial and gender phobic comments, and uncomfortable questions about your social, sexual, and marital life (after all, when are you having those kids? Why aren’t you married yet? You know you’re getting older and it’ll be harder to find someone nice. – Thanks Aunt Karen).
So, for those of you who are less then enthused about another family gathering or are anticipating having to bite your tongue while your Uncle argues about masking and vaccines, here are some tips and tricks to help you get through the holiday with your sanity and your relationships intact.
TIP #1: Focus on what you can control.
You cannot control other people, their thoughts, or their opinions. You can only control yourself and how you let these things impact you. Choose how you want your evening to turn out and do everything you can to make it a reality.
TIP #2: Have a safe space to get away too.
This could be the back porch, a quiet room, or even your car. Just make sure that you have a place to go to if you need to gather yourself and recharge your batteries. There is nothing wrong with excusing yourself from a conversation without an explanation.
TIP #3: Have a DD (Designated Distractor)
Pick a person that you feel comfy with and be each other’s supports. This doesn’t have to be someone that is at the event with you, maybe it’s your best friend that you can call or text that will support you and help you figure out your next move. The important thing is to set this up with them ahead of time so they know to be prepared and ready to answer your calls/texts if you need them.
TIP #3: Know your trigger topics and avoid them
We all have conversation topics that make us uncomfortable, and would rather avoid. There are bound to be any number of them brought up throughout the night so it pays to be ready. This could be anything from politics, gender roles, racial discussions, LGBTQ+, generational differences, social media, masking, vaccines, money, jobs, relationships, or even just “kids these days.” So, know what topics you would like to avoid and practice setting a boundary in case it gets brought up. This way, you can excuse yourself or change the topic to something more positive and friendly before you start a food fight at the table.
TIP #4: Pick your battles
If there is a controversial topic that you’re passionate about and would like to try and educate some of your less-informed family and friends; that is your choice, and more power to you. Just be sure to use some tact and ask yourself these questions first:
Is this the right time and place for this discussion?
Is this going to be a discussion or an argument?
If you are going to share your perspective, are you willing to hear theirs?
Is this the type of person who, given new information, is open to challenging their own opinions?
TIP #5: Be prepared for those uncomfortable questions
Are you dating anyone? You look thin, are you eating enough? When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids? And the list goes on and on. We all have questions that we know we are going to get asked at some point. So set yourself up for success and have an answer ready. This could be as detailed as sharing about the new person in your life or simply saying “not right now” and changing the subject.
If you are prepared with a well-thought-out answer you won’t be caught off guard. Nothing beats an old classic like “livin’ the dream!” or maybe you want to go simple and say, “it’s going well, how about you?” when asked how your life is going.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. If you have any questions, comments, or would like help working on any of these skills to handle your family, contact Ally Psych!