What Not to Say During the Holidays

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What Not to Say During the Holidays

by Dara Mathis
November 21, 2018
a young woman sits at a holiday table with a smile

The holiday season is a wonderful time to connect (or reconnect) with the young person in your life. When life has us all a little busy, it’s nice to sit down for a face-to-face dinner and just relax with each other. But did you know it can be hard for some young people to relax at family gatherings because they feel anxiety about dinner conversation? No one is grateful for awkward moments that sometimes arise during holidays with loved ones. As parents, guardians, and champions, it’s important to remember to respect your young person’s boundaries during the holidays.

Topics to Avoid at the Holiday Dinner

For starters, Thanksgiving is arguably the most food-centered holiday in our country. Mealtime brings a number of opportunities to stick your foot in your mouth—but you don’t have to! As everyone around you eats turkey and other delicacies, it’s best to mind your own plate. Avoid joking or criticizing how much or how little food your young person is eating. Commentary about their weight is also a bad idea. You want them to feel comfortable, not self-conscious, about being in the same space with you just as they are. If you have to make small talk about eating, use the occasion to compliment the cook(s) on the delicious dish.

Holiday food is already heavy enough; try your best to keep the conversations light. It’s not a good time to broach topics that have been bothering you about the young person you love. Be careful not to reveal personal issues they have shared with you in confidence. Whether you feel disappointment over bad grades or bad decisions, table those discussions for later. You don’t want their memory of the holiday—or yours—to be overshadowed by a fight.

Romance is another potentially embarrassing topic to steer clear of. If your young person doesn’t volunteer information about their love life, then it’s probably not something they want to be mentioned in front of everyone. Try not to ask them questions about “why” they are single, or about what happened to that guy or girl they were dating last year, last month, or last week.

We know you care about your young person and you want them to live their best life. But keep in mind that your attempts to show concern can be hurtful if expressed in certain ways. For example, these common phrases do more harm than good:

  • "Where did I go wrong with you?” Try instead to demonstrate compassion for how they may be feeling.
  • Oh, this is just a phase.” Avoid dismissing their decisions, beliefs, or identity as trivial or temporary.
  • "Have you put on/lost weight?” Rather, find something to compliment about their appearance.

The best way to show your support for young people during the holidays is to listen to them and respect their boundaries. Talking is Power, of course, and your young person will surely appreciate your input at the right time and place. If you absolutely must use the occasion to check in with them, try to do so in a more private setting, rather than in public. Focus on enjoying each other’s company—and the food! Think of the holiday dinner table as an opportunity to feed your relationship with love, laughter, and an extra helping of smiles.