Be Thankful To Agree to Disagree
Thanksgiving should be a time of family togetherness, and here are 6 activities to help
Thanksgiving should be a time for families to come together and be thankful. After all, it’s the reason for the holiday, right?
But too many Thanksgivings end up with huge fights or arguments in front of the kids. The past few months have been especially volatile with an election that could spark opposing sides.
As parents, as hard as it is sometimes, we have to be the grownups. Research from children of divorce shows us that it’s not so much conflicts between adults that are particularly problematic, stressful or damaging to kids, but it’s witnessing conflict without seeing a peaceful resolution.
Whether you are upset over who did or didn’t get in the White House or you are still holding a grudge from a loan that never got paid back, kids need to see us demonstrate the concept of agreeing to disagree while maintaining mutual respect for one another.
We can provide our kids with a good example of learning to listen, genuinely hear, and appreciate another’s perspective even when our ideas may differ. Our unique personal experiences shape our passions, feelings, thoughts, values and opinions. As such, it is impossible for us all to be the same, which is really what would be necessary for us to all agree all of the time. It takes all kinds of people with all kinds of interests and values to make our world work. If we didn’t have such a variety, everyone would be a chocolate ice cream-loving, brussel sprout-hating, mystery-reading , female veterinarian … which means our animals would all be very healthy but our grocery stores would always be low on our favorite treats and the library would have nothing interesting to read since all the books would be about curing sick animals.
Plus, there would also be no turkey on the Thanksgiving table.
So teaching our kids that variety truly is the spice of life because it enriches our experience is critical. At the same time, helping our children understand that even the best chefs make mistakes and use too much of a flavor at times which overwhelms the dish … it’s too spicy … is important too. Sometimes, parents and other grownups are like this when they share their feelings and their passions with others too intensely. We become very protective of our beliefs and opinions, expressing them too loudly and too harshly when we don’t feel heard. Kids really do love it when grownups admit their mistakes. When we are able to accept responsibility for our own lapses in self-control and emotional regulation (scaring or hurting others feelings because we got carried away), we are showing those relationships are important and worthy of mending by seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.
Kids need to see that the important adults in their lives can disagree and still accept, include and love one another.
With young children, consider using ideas/concepts that are familiar, meaningful and relevant to them. Rather than focusing on political, financial, social, or religious issues, you might talk with them about preferences they share with their close friends, as well as things they might disagree about.
For example, “You believe that plain cheese pizza is the best, and you love to go rock climbing. Your best friend loves pepperoni but is afraid of heights and prefers soccer. Your other friend loves cheese, thinks pepperoni is OK, and is bored by everything but video games and Legos. You think pepperoni is gross. “
Who’s right? Is there a right and wrong? Do your feelings about your friends change because they like different things than you do?
The idea you want to help them learn is that everyone’s thoughts, feelings and values are valid and should be treated with respect even when we don’t happen to agree. It’s also important to keep on loving and accepting others who don’t agree with us, even when that same acceptance is not being given in return. Our value does not change just because someone else tells us so. You wouldn’t agree if someone told you your eyes were rainbow colored … that would be silly! You don’t have to agree if they tell you what’s important to you is wrong either.
Here are some specific, family friendly activities to consider that might be helpful in promoting cohesiveness and collaboration:
1. Consider hanging a tree trunk (drawing, construction paper cut-out, etc.) and giving family members pieces of paper in various colors to serve as leaves. Have each family member write or draw the qualities they appreciate about each other and in themselves (one quality per leaf), and attach them to the tree. Talk about how everyone’s positive aspects bring balance, beauty and health to the tree (since leaves are where trees get their nutrients).
2. As a family, complete jigsaw puzzles or play collaborative games that focus on working together to succeed (e.g., relay races, storytelling games, charades, Forbidden Island or for older kids – Pandemic, etc.).
3. Have a family talent show celebrating one another’s gifts.
4. Play games that focus on learning more about one another (WhooNu, Life Stories, The Ungame, Imaginiff, etc.).
5. Consider classic icebreaker games or drawing “get-to-know-you” questions from a bowl/jar.
6. Research a charity organization and volunteer as a family to work together to serve others.
About the author
Whitney McGee, Psy.D, is a licensed psychologist at Cook Children's. Cook Children's Behavioral Health services provides a broad range of care that focuses on children from ages 3 years through 17, and their families. As part of family-centered care all of our professionals are qualified both through education and experience to work with children who have behavioral and emotional challenges. Our psychiatrists are board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry and our psychologists and therapists are all licensed independently in Texas. Locations include Denton, Fort Worth, Hurst, Lewsville, Mansfield and Southlake.
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