The holiday season is around the corner, mamas. And, what could possibly go wrong…dining with family members you haven’t spoken to in forever? Awkward conversations can abound in that scenario–whether they center around longstanding family conflicts, political rants and/or overall cringe you’d like to keep buried in your subconscious. Not to mention, fresh out of midterms, the election aftermath could be the most contentious topic at the family Thanksgiving dinner table. Yikes.
It’s not uncommon for people to feel emotionally distant from those they’re with. Anyone can end up feeling lonely even when they’re in a room full of people. How’s a tired mom to cope?
I reached out to Boca Raton therapist Lori Lundin-Fish, PhD, LMFT of Palm Beach Therapy Center, for some tips on how to avoid awkward conversations during the holiday season ahead…
Dr. Lori, what would you say are your top 3 tips to try to strike happy conversations during the Holidays that are (ideally) inclusive and engaging?
The holidays can be both an exciting and very stressful time, especially when getting together with extended family. Oftentimes, people may feel pressure for “things to go smoothly” and feel uncomfortable when sensitive topics and awkward conversations come up.
Here are my tips on to welcome happy conversations during the Holidays:
- Focus your attention onto the person you are speaking with. Listen openly and become curious about their life and recent experiences.
- Speak about positive topics. You may focus on gratitude for the ability to get together as a family, any good news within the family system, or even reminisce fond memories of the past.
- Discuss common interests or future planning. Whether you have a movie or show that you like, or a vacation you would like to plan for the future, focusing on more general yet exciting topics can help lessen tension at the family dinner table.
Why is it essential to deal with family conflicts based on politics rather than ignore them? Talk about awkward conversations…
Ignoring any issue will not make that issue disappear. However, dealing with political conflict during a family get together is certainly not ideal.
At times, it is possible for people to have politically stimulating conversations that are healthy and respectful. However, other times, these awkward conversations can become heated and create unwanted divisions within family units. It is suggested to avoid such topics altogether as no one person can truly change another’s perspective.
Our perspectives are derived from our belief systems, conversations we have had with others, personal experiences and knowledge obtained throughout the years. In respecting and honoring the idea of multiple perspectives, we have the ability to respond respectfully towards others, while also honoring our own personal views on any matter.
Acknowledge that as autonomous beings, everyone has the right to think and feel in any way that is fitting for them. This does not mean that we have to agree with one another. However, we must respect our sense of autonomy. If any politically awkward conversations become uncomfortable at the dinner table, using a statement to communicate boundaries and reorient the discussion may be helpful.
It is important to bring the conversation back to yourself and the impact it may have on you, such as: “This conversation is making me feel uncomfortable and is taking away from our time as a family. Is it okay if we talk about something else, like a favorite holiday memory, or favorite holiday dish?”
We mentioned loneliness earlier… How does loneliness during holidays directly impact mental health?
Experiencing loneliness during the holidays is unfortunately very common and directly impacts one’s mental health. This may be due to disappointments or failed expectations which often accompany the holiday season.
One issue that appears to come up often is the issue of social media and comparison. People may subconsciously begin to focus on memories they “should be” making, rather than enjoying the present moment and showing gratitude for the things that currently exist in one’s life.
One may also begin to feel lonely when thinking about past memories and traditions which no longer exist or seem different. Acknowledging that loneliness and sadness exist is a necessary way of coping. It is best to honor your emotions, though they may feel uncomfortable.
Keep in mind that all emotions are temporary. Remain mindful of potential triggers or expectations and reorient your attention to the elements of your life which welcome peace, happiness, or excitement. Focus on positive methods of coping with awkward conversations and create new traditions for the future!
Advice this mama certainly needs to take to heart. Thank you Dr. Lori!
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