By Emma Reilly
Sometimes, though we love our families, getting through the holiday season can feel like an uphill battle. Interacting with loved ones can add stress to any holiday gathering, no matter how welcome the company may be.
It is often said that controversial topics, such as politics, should not be brought up at big family gatherings. Stress levels are already high when there is food to prepare and gifts to buy. Argument-inducing subjects add tension to already hectic dinners and parties, so it is best to just steer clear of them altogether.
However, avoiding disagreement prevents learning and honesty.
By avoiding touchy subjects at holiday gatherings, families bar one another from considering alternative perspectives. Additionally, if someone is misinformed about a topic, they won’t know it unless it is brought up. Discussing taboo topics allows family members to learn more and address their biases.
By abandoning the avoidance of tense topics around the holidays, we will avoid perpetuating news echo chambers and encourage fact-checking.
In addition to helping us learn new and accurate information about certain topics, discussions between family members can help create a sense of acceptance and honesty.
If we can’t address our differences and have civil conversations with our family, we have no chance of doing the same with coworkers, friends, and peers. Families should be able to share ideas with one another, even if they disagree. This is the kind of openness families should pursue this holiday season.
College students in particular may find themselves purposely avoiding taboo conversations with their relatives. For one, it seems intimidating to disagree with parents or grandparents who act stubborn and defensive.
The increased independence students experience at college also contributes to their aversion to family discussions. As students step into adulthood, and educate themselves through classwork and discussions with their peers, they are likely to develop new ideas and opinions that differ from those of their relatives.
Students’ new ideas should have a place in family discourse.
This winter, don’t avoid a controversial conversation if it comes up. Be polite and be patient, but share your feelings and thoughts with your relatives. You may have the chance to learn something new or to correct a misunderstanding.
This may be easier said than done, but it is worth our time and effort to at least try to pursue open conversation with our families. Though it may seem more comfortable to revert to silent contemplation and inner frustration — and to rant to your friends in the aftermath — stepping out of that comfort zone could be productive.
By talking about politics, the economy, social issues, and more, we can encourage the development of an open, accepting atmosphere and reduce the buildup of underlying tension between relatives.
In the end, perspectives from family members, both young and old, have a place at holiday gatherings. Perfecting our ability to talk through differences with loved ones is a step towards reducing family-related holiday stress.