DETROIT (WWJ) – Thanksgiving is a time for families to enjoy good food and a good time — but for some, a family get together can be a time of stress and angst.
Most people don’t change even if you haven’t seen them in a while, so manage your expectations when it comes to your family.
That’s the advice of Beaumont Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Joel Young, who suggests those with contentious family relationships try to focus on their loved ones’ strengths rather than weaknesses.
Stay away from topics that you know will be heated; and if they do come up, try to steer the conversation in another direction.
“If someone else tries to engage you in a conversation that you’d prefer not to be part of, just be authentic and say, ‘I’d rather not discuss that right now,” said Young.
“… Maybe change the subject to something that everyone can agree on — maybe a nice memory of the family together, maybe just a nice event,” he said. “I think that sometimes, with a combination of family getting together — maybe a little bit of alcohol — is a bad combination. Don’t forget that over-drinking can lower inhibitions.”
Young stressed that the holiday season is probably the wrong time to try to work through difficult and longstanding issues. “This is a time to be together, to celebrate the holidays, to celebrate your family members, and maybe not resolve issues which probably don’t have an easy answer,” he said.
Don’t, Young said, expect your family members to be somebody they’re not.
“This time of year we see these images of ideal ‘Hallmark holidays’…and if you feel like your get together is gonna be that, it probably will fall short,” he said.
Young stressed that when your friends post their seemingly perfect holiday pictures on Facebook, remember: “Every family struggles. Behind every door is a story…And don’t get misled thinking everyone else is living or having an ideal family get together.”