Law enforcement has noted that there is an uptick of calls regarding family disputes or violence between family members during the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving. There are things that can be done to help avoid sticky situations and keep the peace during the upcoming family festivities.
Photo by: Andrea Goh
Thanksgiving Day is a time when many people gather together with their relatives to enjoy a magnificent feast. They may envision laughing while good memories are shared and made with everyone eating delicious food and sipping on bubbly. Luckily, this is the reality for some families. Others however, dread the upcoming holiday knowing that Great Aunt Beatrice is probably going to say something snarky about a cousin’s questionable relationship while after four to five glasses of champagne, Uncle Joe usually loses his ability to filter the words that exit his mouth. Unfortunately, during Thanksgiving or other family get-togethers, it is not rare to have family disputes arise that can quickly escalate into violence.
Photo by: Paul Townsend
While the meal itself can be a joyous part of Thanksgiving, the time leading up to dinner time can be stressful for those responsible for feeding a small army. This stress becomes evident as people head out shopping for the ingredients needed to complete their glorious spread. Grocery stores are usually jam-packed leading up to Thanksgiving with hundreds of other people with not only the same idea, but often with a shopping list similar to those around them. When the pumpkin pies run out or stuffing mix is nowhere to be found, some may start to lose their cool. Others might manage to maintain their composure until they make it home where their stress can lead to agitation and tension between family members.
Wanted (and unwanted) house guests
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If hotels have no vacancy or family members want to save money on lodging, they may be invited (or invite themselves) to stay with family members in the area they are visiting. When multiple family members get crammed under one roof, differences of opinions are to be expected. Some arguments may arise due to bedrooms and bathrooms being reluctantly shared; too many know it all cooks in the kitchen; or family members who are not on good terms with each other being forced to rub shoulders more than desired. Any of these or other uncomfortable circumstances can cause already delicate situations to escalate. Sometimes family disputes quickly fizzle out, other times they simmer only to explode later on into physical confrontations.
Prepare and avoid family disputes
Everyone knows the holidays can be stressful and that every member of the family is likely to be in attendance at family gatherings, whether or not they are entirely welcome. With this foresight in mind, it might be wise to prepare for uncomfortable situations and avoid things that can cause disputes to spiral into violence.
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Some suggestions to help limit intense arguments and calls to law enforcement include:
• Avoid hot button topics. If hot button topics such as religion or politics are liable to spark heated debates that can turn physical, make it a rule to avoid these while stuck together at a table.
• Seating chart. Recommend to the host a seating chart that will keep certain people apart who are more likely to argue.
• Limit embarrassing or unpleasant storytelling. If stories from the past aren’t enjoyable for everyone, leave them behind and interject immediately if these reminiscences begin to surface. This is easier for the host to do, as they should have a say in what goes on in their home.
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• Keep the drinking to a minimum. Excessive alcohol consumption has a way of turning a simple argument into an all-out fist fight.
• Get out of there. If a family dinner turns hostile, it may be time to leave. If things do turn into physical confrontations, it is better not to be an involved party when law enforcement gets called in.
• Be a peacemaker. Often it can take a single person to help lighten the mood when things begin to go sour. Be thankful and courteous; patient and understanding. Set the tone and others will hopefully follow suit.