Ho-Ho-Hostility: Mediating Between Conservative Adults and Liberal Kids

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As a senior in college, holiday get-togethers tend to be filled with family tension. Throughout the last four years, I’ve had plenty of time for my opinions to diverge from my parents’, which makes for some difficult conversations.

I grew up in Northern Wisconsin with very conservative parents–the kind who don’t believe in global warming and blame Obama for pretty much everything. My dad has even threatened to cut me off financially because of my political beliefs.

But it’s not just them.

There is not only a significant political generational divide, but also a geographical one. Most people who went to my high school have met very few people of color. Few, if any, have met a gay person. They tend to forget that religions other than Christianity exist. Because they’ve encountered so little diversity in their lives, their view of the world isn’t a view of the world at all–it’s a view of Wisconsin (at best).

For these reasons, I have an especially difficult time talking about any topic with a political connotation when I go home. Whether it’s with my parents, friends or people my age, it usually doesn’t end well.

When deciding what’s worth talking about with someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum, try to gauge the stakes. For instance, if the worst consequence you might foresee from talking about those hot-button issues is someone telling you, “global warming isn’t real because it’s cold outside,” then by all means, go for it. But if the end result could be a month-long silent treatment from either parent or them threatening to cut you off, FLEE THE SCENE.

Having a conversation with someone on the far left OR the far right can be difficult if you identify as a rational human being rather than a hardcore democrat or republican. So if you’re feeling like you want to take on a debate, do it with someone who’s moderately opinionated.

If you’re expecting politics to come up while you’re home for the holidays, come prepared. Make sure you’re up to date with current events and what’s going on with presidential candidates. During these kinds of arguments, try to see the other person’s point of view, but counter their statements with relevant facts. Staying calm and composed is key. If your opponent smells fear, he’ll walk all over you.

As the debate progresses, try to get a feel for where it’s going. If no voices are raised, you’re probably okay. If things are escalating faster than expected, get out fast. No one has time for tears on Christmas Eve.

Voicing your opinion is obviously important, especially on topics you care about–but a peaceful family get-together is even more so. The holidays are a time to put your differences aside and try your best to bond over the things you have in common (even if that’s limited to DNA).

Senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying journalism and environmental studies. Like the Lorax, I speak for the trees. Goals include owning a French Bulldog and living in Seattle.

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