Holidays dinners can be dark comedy horror -shows with dysfunctional families Instead of bringing joy—family lips are loosened by festive cocktails, old wounds are ripped open and the meal turns into a drama worthy of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Seinfeld’s the Strike . or Kyle Cease’s brilliantly funny black psycho-comedy holiday dinner
“How Enlightened Families Argue
Save yourself all the preparations ending in acid reflux and a blood splattered table this Christmas Hanukah weekend. Follow these 10 suggestions.
Sidestep Certain Topics– Request that certain subjects be avoided. Politics, religion, or money can take the place of silence, or old grudges, that will fill the silence
- Limit alcohol– Alcohol tends to loosen lips and add fuel to already heated family debates or wounds.
- Share Joy– One way to bring civility to the table is to ask each family member to share those things that gives them joy this holiday.
- Say One Good Thing– Have each member at the Christmas or Hanukah dinner table say one nice thing about the person to their left.
- Invite Unrelated Guests– We all act better in the company of guests!
- Have a Children’s Table– If the whininess of children at the table is a trigger, just have a kid’s table. Those of us who grew up sitting at the kid’s table are saner for it!
- Buffet Style Meal– If your family can’t behave at the table at all–serve the meal buffet style, and people can sit wherever and with whoever makes them feel comfortable.
- Conversation Starters– To set the tone, consider filling a jar with per-approved conversation topics. Set a timer and have each person pull one topic out every 5 minutes to keep the conversation from getting too heavy.
- Table Games– Consider introducing fun games like “I’m going on a Picnic” and “Twenty Questions.” or other distracting table games
- Place Cards– If you are having a very large gathering, try using assigned seats to separate out potential troublemakers. It might seem ridiculous to assign adults seats, but any event planner will tell you it’s a great idea!
Find out more in Emily Saltz and and Lynn Hackstaff’s chapter Family Conflicts, Dependence and Mutuality : Care Management and the Dysfunctional Family. Handbook of Geriatric Care Management 4th edition.Jones and Bartlett