It’s November, and tomorrow, many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving – followed by Christmas (or another holiday) less than a month later.
Yes, the holiday season is upon us. This year, I’ve updated the Holiday Survival Guide to include even more ideas to keep the peace and enjoy your family and friends.
To do so, I must first address the issues that arise as families gather together and celebrate the holidays. Often, quarrels break out around lifestyle, politics, raising children, and/or the way in-laws have fit into (or not) the family. Some following is drawn from a previous blog – it all stills holds true.
This holiday season and the unstable concoction of the family dynamic mixed with recent political and/or shifts in the family pecking order combined with “change” events of all kinds…is a virtual powder keg. As the reader, taking time to review this article, I’d like to invite you to set your intention now for the holidays to come. Resolve to be the bigger man or woman and commit to avoiding conflict. The truth we might lose sight of in the frustration of the moment is a basic and powerful one: we love the people with whom we quarrel.
As you participate in discussions, ensure you reframe other’s potentially inflammatory remarks as either (1) totally without self-awareness or (2) as a blatant attempt to bait you into a volatile exchange. Don’t be manipulated, instead prepare yourself to be the peacemaker. Hold your intention; don’t budge.
This year, resolve to redirect conflict (or preemptively avoid volatility) using these three nostalgia-based ideas:
- Reference Back: When your brother, Nick, mentions the election and attacks (FILL IN NAME) as a self-obsessed, lying buffoon, capture something about his comment that harkens back to earlier days. Say something like, “Nick, that face you just made reminds me of the time that neighbor kid dared you to eat a ghost pepper. Remember? What was his name? “ Follow-up with more of the story if needed, and Nick will eventually join your walk down memory lane (and the connection as siblings is bolstered).
- Use Music: Keep family members busy playing “name that tune” by accessing iTunes or other on-demand, searchable music services for famous TV theme songs. Cover all eras and everyone can play – from Happy Days to Hill Street Blues to Little House to Magnum PI. Bring a trophy or medal for the champion to keep until the next holiday gathering. Use the past to shape the strength of your bond in the present.
- Remembrance: Bring up 5-10 of the happiest or most positively impactful moments in your life, but ensure the moments you share include family members. Ideas could include: (a) times you felt protected by family, (b) times you felt supported by family, (c) times you felt happiest with family, (d) times you learned a life lesson with family, (e) times you did something for/with family that better defined your role in the family (i.e. big brother protects a sibling), and/or times you felt most connected to family. Watch the past shape the bond you share in the present. This is powerful.
- Symbols: Ask each guest or family member to equate his/her connection and understanding of the family (or tribe) by using a symbol. Volunteer to go first, and shape the conversation by creating powerful, positive imagery connected to your family “brand.” Examples could include majestic animals (bald eagle), larger than life monuments (Eiffel Tower), and/or miraculous sites within creation (Mount Everest). Explain why the imagery holds such a direct connection for you to your family. Stay positive and ask for someone else to share once you finish.
Do these four things, direct your efforts to the entire family (and to specific individuals), and end each conversation with something like, “Those were good times, and Nick, no matter what, I love you brother.” Try this; it works and brings the family closer. In the end, family matters – so make this holiday season count.
Have a Thanksgiving full of love and gratitude, and draw closer to those you love.