In recent years, politics alone were enough to make Holidays with extended family less enjoyable. Layer on opposing values of vaccination status vs. personal health freedom, a dash of any social justice topic (any cause will do), a pinch of environmental concerns, and a heaping dose of financial speculation- and it’s a recipe for holiday disaster.
Here are some solutions if you’re starting to feel that holiday dread:
1) Bring a dish to pass- and a game. If, at their core, your extended family are people you love and enjoy, and you know you can keep hot-button topics off limits, it’ll help to have something else to focus on. Instead of gathering around the kitchen, filling the silence with passive virtue signaling, play a game instead. Play helps connect us with our loved ones in a way that no other activity can offer. It offers laughter, strategy, and connection that can unite even the most politically opposed parties. So, throw in a deck of cards, a bunch of dice, some board games, or even a scavenger hunt, and let the games begin!
2) Set boundaries. Often, setting boundaries can feel like an act of aggression. We see them as a way to keep our loved ones at a distance. In reality, it’s the opposite. Boundaries legitimately sustain the relationship. They communicate to our family that we love them and value their continued engagement in our lives. The way we get to sustain that relationship is by honoring the ways that we move one another forward- and releasing the ways we are holding one another back. Boundaries on the holidays might sound like this: “Really looking forward to celebrating with you this year! I know we’ve had our differences, but that doesn’t change how much I love your (insert favorite quality here). I’m really looking forward to celebrating with you so I’m committed to not engaging in divisive conversations. Can I count on the same from you?”
3) No, thank you. A simple “No, Thank you” is enough if you’ve aged out of feeling guilty for wanting to avoid toxic family gatherings. Instead, you might start your own new tradition. Or, you might focus on celebrating with a smaller group who shares your beliefs and supports your growth. I assure you, you are not alone if you’re no longer willing to play the reindeer games with toxic family members. Remember, The Great Resignation is no longer limited to corporations.
It’s good work we’re doing here; getting really clear on what this next iteration of life will look life for us. Keep seeking. Ask questions. Look deeper. Think bigger. It’s all getting us to where we’re going.
And, if you have a topic you’d like me to address, let me know! It may make it into the next newsletter!