November 9, 2016

How to navigate life — and the upcoming holidays — after an emotional election that divided us.


If the presidential election caused anger and hurt feelings between you and friends or family — in person or on social media — now what? What happens to those personal relationships that frayed during the election season?

Did you unfriend people on Facebook because of political rhetoric? Did you stop speaking to certain relatives? Are you and the neighbors eyeing each other with tense suspicion?

We still need to live and work together. And the approaching Thanksgiving holiday might gather families together while emotions are still raw.

Vanderbilt social worker Jim Kendall, LCSW, CEAP, suggests ways to repair relationships with the people in your life when you’re on opposite ends of the political spectrum but need to navigate Thanksgiving. Here are his tips:


Avoid talking politics for the day

Unless you know that everyone is politically likeminded, tell guests something like: “I’m grateful to host Thanksgiving festivities at my house this year. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving, I am requesting that we all agree to take a day off from the heated discussions of politics. That would make me ever so grateful!”


Think, in advance, of safer topics

The weather? Traffic? Merits of shopping early on Black Friday? Favorite TV shows? Make a mental list of any neutral subject to steer conversation toward if things heat up. Even sports (the recent World Series, or football) might be a more cheerful bet — unless, of course, your family harbors divided loyalties there, too.


Consider skipping the alcohol

Alcohol plus passionate opinions are a bad combination. If you know some of your guests tend to drink too much and act out, perhaps avoid serving wine or booze. That might keep tempers down – and some guests may choose to eat and run!


Set a start and stop time for your festivities

For example, invite people for a Thanksgiving meal “from 1 to 3 p.m. at our house,” or some similarly limited number of hours.


Offer an olive branch

If a relative just can’t let the election go, try appealing to the heart. Tell him or her, “This election brought out the worst in us because we both love our country and want the best for our future. We just have different views of how to get there. I hope that for today we can just celebrate our love/friendship and check our differences at the door.”

And later, when perhaps emotions have cooled but hurt feelings still linger? Are you stuck in grudges that will last four years, or is it possible to get past this?

Kendall suggests telling your loved one: “Even though we differ in our political views, I respect you and value your friendship. I hope we can agree to disagree. Our friendship is bigger than this. During the next four years I hope we can respect each other and come together over what we agree on.”

For post-election healing, try finding common interests and activities – maybe go to a movie together as a start?


Think about whether to take a break

Of course, if none of this sounds like enough diplomacy, there’s always one more strategy. This might be the year to book a weekend away and celebrate Thanksgiving apart from family.

You can come home to love them in time for December.


Read more

If politics or anything else is ruining your sleep, try these tips for taking back your peaceful nights

Thanksgiving, with or without argumentative relatives, is about gratitude. There are good reasons to make gratitude a daily habit.

Finally, if the holidays stress you out regardless of election cycles, here are tips for keeping (relatively) calm as the calendar marches into the season.