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The Cool Calm

Three Magic Words To Help You Survive Family Politics This Thanksgiving


... And other tips for surviving a stressful holiday season

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published in Teen Vogue for Thanksgiving 2016. It's been edited slightly for this re-share.

The holidays can surface old issues, memories, and other feels. What issues are especially prevalent during the holidays, according to our data?

 Great food, time with family, fall foliage... what could possibly go wrong?

Great food, time with family, fall foliage... what could possibly go wrong?

  • Depression

  • Suicidal ideation

  • Family issues

  • Anxiety

  • Romantic relationships

Some tips for avoiding politics over Thanksgiving...

  • Just say no way! Just flat-out ban political conversation at the table. Make a funny sign that says “Politics-Free Zone!” Instead, ask everyone to say something they are thankful for to kick off the meal.

  • Music. Put on some music during the meal and turn it into a happy sing-a-long. The family that sings together, well...sings together (which means you’re not talking politics!)

  • Activities. Keep folks busy. Go see a movie or watch a football game.

  • Bathroom. Or any other sanctuary. Pick one, and make it your happy place. Escape there.

  • Reach out for help. If it feels like too much to handle, Crisis Text Line is here. Just text 741741.

Uh oh. Is Uncle Steve losing his cool at the table? Starting to raise his voice and spout politics? Yikes! Let’s stop that conflict before it starts.

  • Mirror. Use his words and themes and echo back to him. Make him feel heard and understood. (You don’t need to agree-- just make him feel you listened.)

  • Listen. Lots of head nodding. Lots of hugs. Just be there.  Again, you don’t have to agree, you just need to make Uncle Steve feel that you heard him.

  • Validate. You can love Uncle Steve...while not loving his political views. Using validations like “reasonable,” “makes sense,” “understandable,” and “I see” shows you’re at least acknowledging his side of things.

  • Support. “Smart,” “proud,” and “brave” are the magic words that help people move from hot-headed to a calm cool.

  • Reflect. “I feel hurt when you say XYZ…” is more specific, and more neutral, than “You hurt my feelings.”

  • Question. If you do want to get into it, do it in the form of questions rather than statements. Use “what” and “how” questions. And avoid “why” questions, as they tend to sound like accusations.

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