Family warfare: How to avoid tense family dinners this holiday

Dinner is a battlefield. Prepare yourself. Stock image via
Dinner is a battlefield. Prepare yourself. Stock image via

Oh, the holidays: the time of year when the reality of brown road slush and awkward encounters with your new step-brothers are etched into memories of pristine white snow and family unity. Yet there’s one part of the holidays that’s hard to avoid: awkward political conversations at the family dinner table.

We love our grandparents so much. But they are so old and bound to have different, sometimes less tolerant, views.

So of course, when they bring up politics while you’re passing the peas, some uncormfortable conversation will ensue. Nobody wants that, but lucky for you, I’ve devised a handy guide that I like to call ‘D.O.N.T.’


This one requires fast timing on your part. This strategy is easiest if you have a cute younger cousin, because just by pointing out the fact that they exist, the family is bound to divert all attention away from what Grandpa said about hijabs and towards Kevin eating his potatoes. But what if your cousin isn’t little and cute anymore? What if he’s grown since you last saw him and he’s now eight years old and fucking annoying? In that case, I’ve prepared a list of canned responses that will redirect any family onto a different conversation topic:

  • Did anybody see that chef make that thing on the Food Network last night?
  • Will I get the most money in the will?
  • Is my aunt ever going to get married?
  • The final episode of MASH was the greatest television episode of all time.


Maybe you weren’t fast enough and now what your uncle said about Trump is gaining some traction. Luckily, you’re surrounded by distractions in the form of food. Grab the nearest saucieré and pour some gravy/cranberry sauce onto your mom’s brother’s plate. Ask really loudly if he’s had enough before he can go any further and don’t stop pouring until he tells you when.


When your Grandma’s opinions on immigrants slip out, but there’s nothing to serve as a distraction and flooding her plate with gravy feels rude, you may still find it hard to not do anything at all. However, silently grimacing at your mashed potatoes can sometimes make others uncomfortable enough to drop the conversation entirely.


Well, it’s come to this. You’ve tried all other options to no avail, and now you’re stuck with your aunt sharing her opinion about transgender politics. Humour them, let them know how you feel, and when they disagree, just say “I guess everyone has different opinions.” I recommend keeping this to a minute maximum.

So remember, when you’re about to have a political argument at the dinner table: D.O.N.T. No matter what viewpoints your family has, none of those are as important as the fact that they love you, and they’d rather spend time with you than talk politics. You’re back for the holidays; try and enjoy it.