December 22, 2019

How to Survive the Holiday Season with Your Conservative Family Members

By Christina Daudlin

The holiday season is upon us, which of course means chestnuts roasting by open fires, winter wonderlands, reindeer with red noses… and usually a conservative family member who tends to make family gatherings a little less merry and bright. As a child, maybe you just understood your grandma’s exaggerated reinforcement of gender norms or your uncle’s slightly off-colour comments as part of the eclectic jumble of people who made up your family. But now, as the world becomes increasingly more inclusive, we become increasingly more aware of how drastically different our family member’s views are from our own.

From my own experience dealing with conservative family members around the holidays, I’ve established that there are two main options: engage or don’t engage. Here are some tips that I find helpful to remember when spending time with my conservative family members.

I just want to add in a quick disclaimer here that these are what I personally choose to do when interacting with my family members, but all families are different and mine may react very differently from yours. Keep yourself mentally, physically and emotionally safe – that comes first no matter what!

If you choose to engage:

  • Get educated! The most useful thing you can do is know what you’re talking about. When I know my facts, I feel more prepared to discuss politics and social issues with my conservative family, and often, they are more willing to listen. Hit them with those facts and those figures.
  • Find support in your family. It can be both helpful and comforting to have someone else on your side. Talk with a family member you love and trust about how you’re feeling about the difference in opinions with the family and how they could support you if a heated discussion were to happen.
  • Take a deep breath. I have frequently found myself getting emotional and a little heated during conversations with my conservative family members, because we’re discussing things that I’m passionate about and it frustrates me how differing and closed minded their view points are. Remind yourself to breath and keep a level head, even when your family isn’t.
  • Accept that there will always be differences. You don’t have to agree with them or condone their viewpoints. There are some things that you have zero control over and can’t do anything to change. That’s ok. Hopefully you won’t have to see this family member too often.

If you choose to not engage:

  • Avoid talking about politics or social issues at all. When your mom asks you to not to damage her relationships with her conservative second cousin or your mental health might be put at risk, sometime it can just be easier (and safer) to avoid discussing anything that can cause tension. If it is not a safe space to voice your points in a mature conversation, it may be worth it.
  • Walk away. If low blows are being and unfair accusation are being thrown out, sometimes you just need to walk away from the conversation. Simply say, “I’m sorry but I don’t feel comfortable having this conversation with you right now” and remove yourself from the situation. Learn your own boundaries and stick to them.

That’s all from me for now, my friends. I wish you best of luck when spending time with your conservative family members. Hold your loved ones tight this holiday season. You got this.

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