"Amy, could you speak to the issue of how to gracefully handle changing the subject when politics comes up over the holidays...at the dinner table, for example?"
*Editorial note: This blog was originally written regarding politics but applies to any
topic. Each family has their own "hot topics" and this serves as a guideline for respectfully quieting those issues. (12/18/17)
This question was raised in my FB group for parents and I was very happy to help Michael, and all of you, with this issue.
After a very contentious political season, I'm sure many of us would like to just relax and enjoy our family gatherings without someone stirring up trouble!
I always recommend a proactive approach when you know a situation could get heated. Start off with addressing the issue with everyone well before the date of the dinner. You can say something like:
"I'm are so excited that we're all getting together for Thanksgiving dinner. It's been a stressful couple of weeks and this will be a great time for everyone to relax and unwind. Having said that, we are asking that everyone agrees to leave politics out of our family dinner...after all, I think we all need a break from that stress, right?"
Then, if the subject does come up, a gentle reminder would be appropriate. "I understand that you feel strongly about this, but remember we all agreed to take a break from politics so we can enjoy our time together?
If someone continues to rant, it might be good to let them get whatever it is off their chest, but do not engage in the topic. Let them vent then quickly move them to another topic with a question about something else. Some people like to stir the pot just to be the center of attention...by asking them a question about their hobby, job, etc. they'll still be getting attention but they won't be starting a dinner war!
Another tactic is to have fun dinner questions at each setting so conversations will be light and easy. One person reads and answers their question, then everyone else answers the question as well.
This is a great way to get to know more about each other, bond the generations and encourage conversations between relatives who rarely see each other. Questions could include: "What was your most memorable birthday gift?" or "What is your favorite candy bar?"
Turn the tables!
Take a negative subject and turn it into a family discussion on how you can make a difference in your community, just think of the impact this would have! By changing the direction of the discussion from complaints to action it will allow everyone to take a step away from anger and into positive choices.
A few other thoughts:
1. Discuss adult topics only when little ones are out of the room. It is very unsettling for children to see their grown-ups arguing.
2. Try to focus on making family memories
3. It's okay to acknowledge someone's point of view without agreeing with it. "I see how this is very important to you, let me read more about it and I'll be happy to follow up with you later."
Family dinners can be stressful without adding "hot button" issues to the menu. Taking a proactive approach will help! Here's hoping you all have a wonderful, relaxing family gathering! from my family to yours: Happy Holidays!
For tips, strategies and stress relieving techniques on all parenting issues,
join us in our FB group: Dare to Parent hosted by Amy Ambrozich