Heading home for the holidays isn’t always idyllic. While trying to avoid conflict this season, consider these tips and tricks.
The Millennial generation is not the first to clash with their elders. It happened with the Roaring ‘20s and the beat generation in the 1960s as well. Thanksgiving and Christmas are not always a Norman Rockwell painting of the perfect American family surrounding the dining table, all smiles. Sometimes, these holidays are more like Saturday Night Live skits, wherein uncomfortable topics come up in conversation and strange relatives make appearances once again.
From the stereotypical cheek-pinching aunt to the grumpy grandparents who dislike everything from the 21st century, spending time with family never fails to be interesting. You all may look alike, but personalities and opinions may clash.
Tip Number 1: Avoid politics
This one is a given. Political discussions run the risk of turning into heated debates, now more than ever. It is best not to mention fighting words like “Trump,” “Republican,” “Democrat” or even “immigration.” These are hard topics to avoid, as each family member would love to convince all the others that their view is the correct one to hold. It is also frustrating to hear opinions of government leaders, party affiliations, gender and LGBTQ+ equality and building that wall that you may see as backward or ill-informed. Try not to take a side, and be lighthearted about current events. Or nod along and let bombs diffuse themselves.
Tip Number 2: Hug and kiss back, unless it goes too far
Family members who have not seen you in a while will definitely go in for hugs and kisses. Be tolerant and let them show you that they love you. It can be insulting to push away affection from relatives. However, most families have some members that get pretty mushy. If you do pull back, these relatives are usually old enough to forget about it or not notice at all. Politely asserting your boundaries is also better than avoiding their greetings as well.
Tip Number 3: If you push your food around to spread it out, it will look like you ate it
This is a major tactic that I use at family gatherings. I come from a Swedish family. Other than the meatballs, the Swedes are not well-known for their cuisine, and for good reason. When the weather in a place like Sweden is below freezing for such a large part of each year, fermented fish and oysters are all you can get. Smear around each food item to create the illusion that you ate most of it. Then you won’t have to deal with your family saying things like, “No wonder you’re so skinny. You hardly eat!” This goes along with another stereotype that does have some truth to it: grandparents love giving food to their grandkids. Make it look like you ate some.
Tip Number 4: Lean on your sane relatives
There are most likely a few relatives to whom you can relate, whether they’re closer to your age or are also trying to hide the fact that they’re getting annoyed by snail-like Wi-Fi speeds, if there is any Wi-Fi at all. You might have more in common with some of these relatives than you think. Take an interest in their lives and let them carry on the conversation.
Tip Number 5: Enjoy your time with family as best as you can
These holidays may not hold your interest or feel special to you. But chances are, your family members look forward to these days and their time spent with you. A little bit of engagement goes a long way. Not many people in life simply ask for your time. Time is something everyone needs to give for their families. Some family relationships are not amicable and some families fight more than anything else. But putting up with it for just a few days can give you a chance to make your relatives happy. Doing so will make you feel good and shift your focus off the differences you may have.