Newswise — EVANSTON, Ill. --- Two Northwestern experts are available to comment on what to do when the deep political polarization in American society following the election plays out in families during Thanksgiving celebrations.
They offer tips on dealing with the stress of fierce family divides, setting parameters beforehand about what can be discussed at gatherings with loved ones and dealing with the tension when the conversations do turn to the election.
Alexandra SolomonLicensed clinical psychologistThe Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityAssistant clinical professor of psychologyDepartment of PsychologyPhone: 773-805-0543Email: [email protected]
Solomon offers guidelines for families to get past their political differences during holiday gatherings.
For Families: Make a Plan“Some families are using email or a group text to have a meta-conversation ahead of time,” Solomon said. “In other words, they are ‘talking’ about talking, making agreements about how they will handle differences when they are together at Thanksgiving. Some families I know of — ones that historically tend to struggle with wholehearted and curious dialogue — are agreeing to place a moratorium on election talk for now. Rather than being a strategy of avoidance, for some families, a temporary moratorium is a way of honoring the need to feel connected and close during this upsetting time.”
For Individuals: Be Mindful“Listen to your body,” Solomon said. “Take a break if and when you feel ‘triggered,’ too angry or sad or afraid to stay engaged with an open and curious heart. During the break, use some self-soothing strategies like deep breathing, walking outside, taking a hot shower or listening to music.
Limit Alcohol Consumption“Even if we think that alcohol will help us feel more mellow and festive, alcohol is a depressant,” said Solomon. “Alcohol increases the chances that tempers will flare.”
Remember the Long Game“The wounds are fresh right now,” Solomon said. “We are swimming in uncertainty. There’s so much that we don’t know right now. Therapists often say, ‘Name it to tame it.’ Naming that fact — we are dealing with so much uncertainty — invites compassion…with ourselves and with each other.”
Mark ReineckeChief of PsychologyNorthwestern MedicineAuthor, “Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On: Twenty Lessons for Managing Worry, Anxiety, and Fear”Please direct all interview requests to Marla Paul at 312-503-8928 or [email protected]
How to Handle Politics at the Holiday Table“It depends on the family,” Reinecke said. “Is this a family open to discussion, who can exchange ideas without judgment and value the exchange? Or is it a family where discussions become polarized, and open debate is not accepted? If it is the latter—don't talk politics. Pass the peas."
When Family Member Broach the Topic Reinecke offers the following three points:
1. “Be respectful. Listen and strive to understand. Don't challenge or try to make a point. Accept that others may have opinions that differ from yours.”
2. “Keep in mind what's truly important — family relationships.”
3. “Avoid personal attacks. Don't question the ethics, morality or judgment of others. Avoid labels.”