How to Dodge Awkward Family Situations During the Holidays


It's that time of year again. You will have many opportunities to be around family and get some uninvited advice about your job, your kids, your house, or even your cooking. Conversations may arise about who got your most recent political vote, what you are eating, and other comments that tend to start some holiday flare-ups with your relatives. This is why two-thirds of people claim to predict there to be at least one argument this season. Here are some ways to dodge some awkward conversations so you won't be left running for the door before dessert is served.

1. Politics

Americans tend to avoid discussing politics during holidays, but this year, there is likely to be a bit of discussion. To avoid having an argument, some families even institute a politics-free rule. However, things may still come up, especially if there is alcohol involved. This may cause some people to feel picked on for their political views.

While it may be tempting to defend your political POV, moving on to a different conversation doesn't have to mean that you have abandoned your beliefs. If someone isn't willing to have a polite conversation, then protect your sanity by counteracting a family member's raised voice by speaking in a soft and slow tone. Stay calm so the other people in the room will be likely to do the same thing. Also, at the beginning of the event, pair up with someone to help you steer the conversation into safe waters.

If someone asks questions rather than pointing out why you're wrong, this is a sign that the person is willing to have a real conversation. Just try not to do it somewhere that the whole family is listening and will begin to chime in.

Finally, if someone makes a comment that really bothers you, follow up with them later during a more quiet moment. You can even use the comment as a starting point to begin a conversation with your children about your family's principles.

2. Food Fights

Strict diets, allergies, and limitations are common these days, leaving people eating very differently from one another. If someone makes a comment about your diet, respond in a brief yet firm way that doesn't invite further discussion. You can even choose to quickly change the subject so the person has no room for further questions.

3. Your Life

Choices that were once considered to be shocking, such as unwed cohabitation, midlife career changes, and waiting to have children, are now fairly common. But old-school thinkers may still judge you for your own personal life's timeline. It is a good idea to have some responses planned in advance for these types of questions concerning exactly when you will get engaged or get pregnant.

A good way to deal with this is to use humor so the interrogators aren't able to watch you squirm. Make a joke about someone asking you where your date is by saying something like "He is trapped in my basement." People will either laugh or become uncomfortable enough to change the subject.

4. Family Fights

It is no surprise that your relatives have a lot of opinions about how you are raising your children. Research actually shows that parents are more likely than adults without children to fight with their family during the holidays. People often wonder if they are doing a good job parenting and it is a sensitive subject, so when this is challenged, it is likely to start a feud.

Whether you are dealing with some habits are uncomfortable or truly upsetting, dealing with someone else's opinions is a great way to remind yourself of what you want from this holiday season. Chances are, you just want to have a good time. If you're not willing to let some things slide, work with your partner to hash things out and have each of you deal with your own side of the family.

5. Mental Health

While the world has made great strides in overcoming the misconceptions and stigmas that surround mental health, unfortunately, your family may not be making any progress. Realizing why they do not understand certain conditions, like generational taboos, doesn't remove the sting from their side-eye. You are allowed to be annoyed when your relative sees your prescription drugs in your bag and is now an expert on curing anxiety the natural way.

If someone makes a comment, it is not your responsibility to educate them on your treatment plan. Instead, respond by saying that you are doing what works best for you right now. If a family member can't understand why you are depressed, all you can do is remind yourself that not everyone understands mental health issues. Remind family members that everyone has their ups and down and it's normal to go through some low points in life. Then do what you need to stay calm. Walk the dog or send an eye roll emoji text to a friend.

6. Game Changers

If you feel a conversation is starting to go south, use a one-liner to dodge the bullet. Say something along the lines of:

"I hear you have been involved in some community service. Tell me about it."

Why it works: People love to talk about themselves. Shift the attention back to them!

"I don't want to talk about this."

Why it works: Women hate confrontation or ruffling feathers, so putting up boundaries and setting limits for yourself is the best thing you can do during this holiday.

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