If you want to avoid conflict
Dinner table conversations about vaccinations, sexuality or gender can highlight the moral disparities we have with people we consider our nearest and dearest.
Spillane says if you don’t want to get into the rabbit hole of trying to convince your family their opinions are not good, it’s best to avoid topics that you know cause tension.
“Christmas is a stressful time for everyone and may not be the best time to have a conflict,” she explains. Spillane notes it is unlikely you will change your relative’s mind (as much as you might grit your teeth) – so bringing up a controversial issue will likely only cause more frustration and negatively impact your relationship.
If you have an opinionated relative
Often our family members know exactly how to push our buttons, but it can be exhausting if you cop endless, targeted criticism.
Spillane says setting boundaries when dealing with relatives who bring nothing but criticism to the Christmas table is the safest way to protect your health and wellbeing.
“Try and stick to ‘safe’ topics that are less likely to result in criticism,” she advises. “If someone starts being critical of you,
it’s perfectly OK to say that you don’t want to discuss that topic today and redirect the conversation.”
If pointed commentary gets the better of you (and we don’t blame you if it does), Spillane says you’re allowed to remove yourself from the situation.
If there’s tension between family members
If you know certain family members don’t get along, not wanting to get caught in the middle of their conflict can be daunting.
In this situation, Spillane recommends you “control what you can control”.
“It may not be your responsibility to get involved in the conflict of others,” she says. “You can express that you would like everyone to get along, but ultimately, they may need to solve the conflict amongst themselves.”\
If you’re expecting the worst
For some, the lead-up to what we perceive to be a stressful situation can be more anxiety-inducing than the situation itself. If this sounds like you, Spillane advises you to take some time out.
“Often the day before Christmas is filled with last-minute tasks and chores, which results in more anxiety and stress. Try and head into Christmas as relaxed as possible,” she says.
Spillane explains that while Christmas can be a hectic time of year, it’s best to think about the things you love about festivities and focus on that.