It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?
Let’s be honest with each other and just admit that for many of us, the answer is most definitely “no.” After all, who really is looking forward to sitting down for a meal on Christmas Day (and possibly even Boxing Day, New Year’s, et cetera) with misogynist Uncle Joe or ridiculously conservative Aunt Sally, or grandparents who incessantly ask if you’ve “met any boys recently,” and act mortified when you explain you’re busy focusing on other areas of your life or (perhaps more scandalous to them) that you don’t really like boys?
But there are ways to not lose the plot and still have a holly, jolly holiday season, explains Kyle MacDonald, a New Zealand Herald mental health columnist, co-host of the Nutters Club on NewstalkZB, and an Auckland-based practicing psychologist.
“Often if people have radically different view we find offensive, that can make things quite reactive,” he explains. Add the fact we often censor ourselves less around family and the availability of alcohol, and MacDonald says that can make conflict more likely.
But there are some things we can do to avoid conflict, he says. Sometimes, he explains, it can be as simple as deciding you don’t need to spend a whole day with certain family members. “Sometimes it can be thinking, ‘is it necessary to do what you’ve always done before?’”
Another idea, MacDonald says, is to do some mental preparation by thinking about what might be discussed and how you can deal with it before meeting with family with views you know to be offensive or that are very different from your own. “It’s sort of preparing yourself,” he explains.
But despite our best efforts, we might still find ourselves arguing with Trump-supporting cousins about (the totally reasonable) reasons women should be equal to cis men and why women should be able to make their own choices about their own bodies. “It’s recognising that situation and saying to ourselves, ‘how do we want to respond?’” explains MacDonald. The important thing, he says, is to not respond from a position of anger. Sometimes that means realising that the end-of-year holidays may not be the best time to try and change a person’s views, he says, and understanding that it’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment to compose ourselves before we respond. “It’s about not being reactive and being really clear about what we think and feel.”
Using “I” statements, such as “I don’t agree with what you’re saying” or “I don’t think men should be telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies” can sometimes work, MacDonald explains. But sometimes, he says, it may be a good idea to simply get up, leave the conversation, and take a break.
The holidays mean a lot of things – and a chance to catch up with family we might not have seen all year (or longer) is a big part of that for many of us. With these tips, our days can (hopefully) be merry and bright. Or, at the very least, allow us to end the year and begin 2017 with our sanity still intact.