Turkey, Mashed Potatoes — And a Side of Politics

Nov 24, 2016

Credit Flickr / Stacy Spensley

This Thanksgiving, some families will be getting a side of politics alongside their turkey and mashed potatoes. That’s because this year’s holiday comes on the heels of a particularly divisive election. HPR’s Molly Solomon got some tips from a professional on how to best manage divided feelings at the dinner table.

The question of how to navigate a post-election Thanksgiving is something Katherine Aumer has been pondering.

"This season especially will be difficult for many people," said Aumer who teaches psychology at Hawai‘i Pacific University. She says politics will likely be a topic that’s nearly impossible to avoid. And no matter who you voted for, tensions could run high.

"There could be families that have voted for two different presidents. So some people might be happy and some people might not be," said Aumer who explained that divide can create a lot of tension. "And there's already that tension with holidays to begin with, this election just adds to that pressure."

Aumer says she’s seen friends and families in her own life un-friend each other on Facebook because of who they voted for.

"We're testing our relationships in a lot of ways, and that's understandable because these policies are personal," she said. "People feel more than usual stressed and upset about this election because they feel that not just their values have been attacked, but they themselves personally have been attacked."

Aumer says it’ll be up to individual families to decide whether they leave politics at the door or duke it out at the table. For those that choose the second option: she offers a bit of advice.

"A lot of times we have to think about what's our goal in having this discussion," Aumer said. "Is the goal to convince the other person of my side? Is it to make them feel what I'm feeling? Is it to just express how I'm feeling? And to find out is this the right time for that? Making those judgments clearer can help people navigate the stress of Thanksgiving."

She did stress that this was just the first holiday dinner of more to come. And to remind people that these arguments, or conversations, will likely continue.