going deeper

How to avoid arguing this Thanksgiving

Worried Thanksgiving will be ruined by arguments about election results?
20 Strategies to build unity using healing topics designed to block political conflict
The holiday season can create loving connection between family members or be a time of conflict, arguments, rejection and hurt. Especially after the emotionally charged 2020 Presidential election left many family relationships strained or even shattered.
How can you have a calm conversation with your relatives when there is so much political pressure and unrest? As host you must set the tone that your Thanksgiving table is about connection – not conflict. It is a time of unity not division. The conversation is about family relationships of the people who live at your house, not debate about who is elected to serve at the White House.
Talking about personal life allows stress to go down because it allows for empathy and understanding about normal life challenges instead of national ones. Everyone is stressed and everyone needs more support to manage the pressure. The questions below are designed to open a family dialogue to grow stronger during these difficult times and will require more disclosure as you go further down the page. Help everyone start a conversation and encourage others to share what was meaningful, or perhaps even frustrating about surviving this pandemic as you build unity by listening and learning together.
Thanksgiving can be a time to enjoy relationships when you set a boundary on conflict and boosting connection with meaningful conversation over a family meal. It is a chance to share gratitude for the people you care about, express appreciation and voice the blessings of life often taken for granted. To count blessings instead of problems.
Here are 20 conversation starters to build connection, emotional strength, mental toughness, and resilience.


1. What are you doing to practice self-care and personal wellness during this pandemic?
2. Have you seen any benefits during this pandemic? (example, more family time)
3. Besides toilet paper, anti-bacterial wipes, bottled water, and hand-sanitizer what items do you wish you had stocked up on before the pandemic?
4. Where do you want to go first when COVID -19 restrictions are lifted?
5. What online magazines or streaming services have you used most? (Netflix, Hulu, Sling, Apple TV, Amazon Prime or Disney+, etc.)
6. What have you been reading during the pandemic?
7. How have you simplified your life during this pandemic?
8. What habits have you been able to change during the extra time at home?
9. Did you pick up any bad habits during the quarantine time of sheltering at home?
10. When you can safely attend public events after the pandemic, where will it be?
11. What parts of shelter in place were the most challenging or frustrating to you?
12. What parts of ‘new normal’ will you keep in place after the pandemic is lifted?
13. What do you miss most about life before COVID? (besides mandatory face masks)
14. Which family member have you missed seeing during quarantine, or did you lose during this global pandemic? (and if so, how are you grieving)
15. What act of kindness has impressed you the most?
16. What have you discovered you can live without?
17. What was hardest for you while sheltering in place? (example loneliness or isolation)
18. Where do you find courage to keep going, and what do you hope to remember about this extended time of global crisis?
19. How has the COVID pandemic changed you?
20. What topics are hardest to talk about as pandemic is ending? (example employment, financial fears, substance abuse, addictions, or abusive relationships).
Consider sharing a few of your own answers to spark conversations with your family and friends as you model the value of open conversations about COVID shelter in place. Story is a powerful force to build morale and courage for everyone.
Talk about life experiences you have gone through, especially difficult times your family and friends may not be aware of. Sharing how you managed previous challenges might give courage to family facing similar challenges now.
When you open conversations, it helps each person feel less stress and stay engaged in the relationship. Covid recovery is challenging for all, but to those who keep open lines of communication, their relationship will improve. Crisis can create connection when so start a conversation which may help someone find the resilience to move on through the pandemic.
About the Author - Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor who writes on managing crisis to create positive change. He lives in Orlando with his wife of thirty years, two kids and four cats. Follow him @DwightBain