Therapist Joe Rich helps viewers navigate awkward situations that rise up during holiday gatherings that we can all relate to.
Viewer email: “My dad and his brother love talking about politics, but they’re on opposite sides. I’m worried that this year, when we get together for the holidays, they will get into a heated debate at the table! how can i prevent a potentially ugly scene?”
How to handle it: Pre-empt them both by letting them know that you’d like to keep politics out of the dinner conversation this year. Then make a rule: put a limit of five minutes on politics just in case someone baits either of them. Be sure they know what you are asking of them in advance by checking in at the beginning of the gathering.
Viewer email: "My aunt always brings her terrible torte to dinner, and no one ever eats it! How do we tell her to save the food and just bring herself instead?"
How to handle it: You don’t! Simply say thanks so much for the torte and place it on the table with the rest of the dishes.
Viewer email: "My uncle has a revolving door of girlfriends. This year, he told my mom he’s bringing his newest girlfriend to our family Christmas Eve gathering, where we always take a family photo. More than likely, their relationship will not last long, and we don’t think she should be included in the picture. How can we tell him?"
How to handle it: When it comes time to take a picture, ask her to be the photographer. She’ll get the hint! You can also take one with her in it afterwards, which leaves you with two versions and no confrontation.
Viewer email: "My two best friends got divorced this past year, which has changed the dynamics of our group of friends. It’s my turn to throw our annual Christmas party, and I don’t know how to deal with this, since they aren’t amicable. Should I invite both of them, or neither of them? Help!"
How to handle it: Invite both. Keep in mind that they may not be up to coming. Offer support, and implement a rule of no new partners for year one. Remember, if one says they’re not coming if other one is coming, tell them you’ll miss them.
Viewer email: "Our sibling hasn't told my parents that they are taking their family away for Christmas yet, and my mom is already making plans. She can be a bit controlling and won’t take this lightly! How do we deliver the bad news in the best possible way?"
How to handle it:You don’t! This bad news is not yours to tell. You may have your own feelings about this but all concern for mom, but ultimately this responsibility falls on the one who has made the alternate plans. Tell them to be direct and do the adult thing. This may also be a good time for you to suggest a new tradition, like hosting Christmas at your house this year. Change can be opportunity!