Family Dynamics Surrounding Politics and Thanksgiving

Delicious thanksgiving dinner that should not be interrupted by nasty conversation. Picture by

Lauren Helsing, Staff Writer

Thanksgiving is around the corner and the 2020 Election just behind us, which means that the dinner table might be a stressful place to be this holiday season. As families come together, there is bound to be many opinions that emerge during the hours spent with brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, boyfriends, girlfriends and partners. Democrat or Republican, Right or Left, we should find a way to get along – so how do we navigate this thin sheet of ice? 

Each family should ultimately set their ground rules for the holidays but we should all agree that political discussion is not welcome at the dinner table. Sure, it may be hard to avoid the most recent tweet, news report or court case but someone needs to be the “designated peacemaker” and keep the conversation from going off the rails. At the first hint of political discourse, the peacemaker should calmly state that “the dinner table is no place for this discussion, and I thank you keeping your political opinions for a later time”.  Most families have one or more differences of opinion about politics and depending on the depth of the relationships, those opinions can get heated. 

There is no need to cause tension within your own family, especially when in a season of appreciation and love. Thomas J. Leeper, PHD, stated in Psychology Today that “Political debates are about political issues, they are not (or at least should not be) about personal differences”.  

So as a high school student with older family members who tend to swerve into a nasty political discussion between bites of turkey and mashed potatoes, it is important that we step in and use our peacemaker super power – turn the conversation back to what Thanksgiving is all about by asking “What is one thing you are thankful for this year?”  Even though 2020 has been hard for most people in the world, everyone should be able to find one or two things that they are thankful for.