4 Ways to Be Positive During Family Gatherings

Multiple generations, experiences and perspectives come together around holiday tables at this time of year. Practice positive communication strategies to make the most of the season.

Posted in , Nov 16, 2017

Positive Thanksgiving

“Family” is among the top things people express gratitude for at Thanksgiving, for good reason. Family, after all, represents where we come from, where we are fully accepted and where we are most at home.

But that ideal isn’t always achievable for every person in every family. Especially in these divided, emotional times, families might find themselves feeling strained and unsure how to communicate and connect. As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s time to recall the positive communication strategies that can help you be your authentic self with your family and find ways to come together peacefully and positively.

1.  Be in the Moment
Relationship challenges persist and grow when we judge today’s comments and behaviors based on yesterday’s arguments and conflicts. It might be impossible to pretend past events never happened, but the closer you can come to approaching this Thanksgiving with a focus on what's happening now, the more open you will be to the opportunities the present moment offers. Maybe you will share a story from your past that illuminates your relationship with a younger family member. Or maybe you’ll find a new level of connection when you hear yourself reflected in your family members’ experiences.

2.  Find the Funny
Even if there are family tensions that can’t—and shouldn’t—be brushed off with a joke or funny remark, laughing together can be a balm to soothe bruised feelings. The comedian Josh Gondelman quips, “Avoid arguing about politics with your grandparents by breaking into song. Twerk if you must.” That strategy can go both ways—grandparents can break the tension this Thanksgiving by leading a show tunes sing-along or by doing the twist.

3.  Roll Up Your Sleeves
Getting busy doing—doing anything, from table setting to food preparing to dish washing—is a way to take the relationship-building process out of the verbal realm and into the physical realm. Your body will relax into the flow of the activity, and without the need to sit and stare at each other, you may find you and your family members talk more easily and comfortably about matters both mundane and profound.

4.  Care for Yourself
Practice the fundamentals of self-care to maximize the energy and attention you can make available to your family:

--Try not to overeat (or judge yourself for indulging in holiday favorites).
--Notice your breathing and focus on extending your exhales to relax your mind.
--Try to get some exercise to keep your blood flowing and your muscles awake
--Take breaks when you need to re-set, finding a quiet room or a few moments outside. 

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