The holidays are a wonderful time to bring family together, but they can also be a hotbed of conflict and stress. How can young and old push past political, religious, and generational divisions to find common ground and enjoy each other’s company this holiday season?
Here, Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, psychologist and assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York, shares tips on how intergenerational families can come together for positive holiday interactions.
Show some respect.
Yes, young people must respect their elders, but the respect has to go both ways in order to keep the peace during hot-button discussions.
“Just because you’re an elder does not mean you get the last word, and just because you’re younger and out of school does not mean you know it all,” reminds Dr. Gardere. “Be respectful of one another and engage in equal discussion rights.”
That means family members of every generation must be willing to exercise humility and set their pride aside in the name of maintaining relationships.
Remember what you have in common.
Some of us grew up in the digital age; others remember a time before television. While it can be tempting to focus on differences, it’s more productive to find common ground.
“Frame the discussions around sharing viewpoints, not about who is right or wrong,” says Dr. Gardere. “Every effort should be made to find points of similarity from both camps – this keeps things positive.”
Maybe you’ll never see eye to eye on gun control, for instance, but you can all agree on the need for improved services and care for veterans. Spend time talking about the issues that bring you together rather than ones that polarize.
Recognize each other’s strengths.
Remember that the energy of youth doesn’t trump experience — and vice versa. In the spirit of peaceful family holiday discussions, play to your strengths without negating the wisdom of those around you.
“Elders should lean on their strengths – history and experience. For the younger generation, it’s about technology and the information highway,” says Dr. Gardere. “Always approach the discussion with life lessons from elders and the new reality and energy from the younger generation.”
In other words, keep in mind that you’re not the only one at the table who has something valuable to say. It’s easy to dismiss young folks as immature and seniors as out of touch, but in doing so, families miss out on rich opportunities to learn from and love each other – even when they disagree.
“Seniors have much experience and can impart much wisdom; younger people have energy and new ideas. Their positions do not have to be diametrically opposed,” says Dr. Gardere. “What we are looking for at our family table is a hybrid where both views can come together to have dynamic, smart, and memorable interactions.”
CHIME IN: How do you keep the peace at intergenerational family holiday celebrations?