Yazdani: Avoiding family conflict this Thanksgiving dinner

Many dread those near inevitable political discussions held when the whole family meets. Some people find themselves quarreling with their raving uncles or trying to ignore their rambling grandpas. Eventually, politics dominate the discussion followed by a series of head-swerves and eyerolls. 

Political quarrels may occur less in immediate families, but as other family members arrive, so does much political anguish. However, despite your family members’ political views, you should strive to avoid familial conflict this Thanksgiving.

Most American children dissent with their parents on politics. According to a 2015 study conducted by the American Sociological Association, more than 50% of children either reject or misperceive their parents’ beliefs. The study analyzed two surveys of 11,992 subjects from the Health and Lifestyle Study and the National Longitudinal Study of Youths. Children in the HLS were aged 16 to 82 and in the NLSY 18 to 37. The wide age ranges demonstrate how disagreements between parents and their children involved not only current generations, but past ones too. 

Although avoiding political conversations altogether seems like the best option, listening to what family members have to say can be more constructive. We may agree with our families’ views if we can begin to understand them. Psychoanalyst Jennifer Kunst advises people to “approach the conversation with an expectation that you might learn something.” Kunst adds that one should try to fathom the speaker’s point of view and that the listener should be genuinely curious. 

Similarly, The American Psychological Association urges people to find common ground when possible. For example, while gun control is a divisive subject, individuals can agree on some key concerns. Parents of opposing sides may both fear for their children’s wellbeing. 

When political conversations sour between family members, consider changing the subject or walking away. Instead of quibbling over politics, you could find the closest restroom and take some deep breaths. If you despise political conversations in general, you can simply change the subject. Sometimes, no matter how anyone approaches a political conversation, they will still sour. 

As Thanksgiving approaches, just remember that tensions may flare as political discussions emerge, but you can take measures to de-escalate any potential conflict. During this holiday, avoid infighting and begin delighting.