The holidays mean gathering together as a family. Yes, even that family. In hopes of making the season jolly for all, we’ve come up with an essential list of ice breaker questions and conversation starters that’ll keep politics and other negative topics out of the conversation and focus on fun instead. From old-fashioned board games to cooking together and sharing treasured stories, here are 11 things to do instead of getting mad about opposing views.
1. Share what each family member is thankful for. There's nothing better to help stem negative energy than to focus on positive things. While gathered around the Thanksgiving or holiday table, ask each family member to share what they are grateful for and why.
2. Everyone shares what they’re reading and recommends a book. This year has been a great one for new kids' books, and sharing book recommendations is a great conversation starter. Ask each family member to share what they're reading and recommend a book they love.
3. Pull out an old photo album and talk about the pictures. Your kids will enjoy hearing the stories behind old photos, and your parents or other relatives can fill in the blanks.
4. Play a board game or cards. There's nothing like the friendly family game of Sorry or Go Fish to get family focused on some friendly competition rather than political speak. Don't just stick with the old classics though. There are tons of new board games your family members (young and older) will love, including The Incredibles Save the Day, Monster Match, Ticket to Ride: New York City 1960, and Five Little Fish.
5. Work together to create family placemats, napkin rings and table decorations. Working together on a project brings people together collaboratively instead of conversations that tear us apart. Get family members together to engage in activities and create items such as placemats and napkin rings for the Thanksgiving or holiday table.
6. Share favorite family stories from the past. Everyone has a story to tell, and family gatherings are a great place to share them. Write down some of the grandparents’ stories to make sure those tales are recorded. Check out these games and story prompts to help as ice breaker games and bring out the treasured family stories and memories.
7. Cook together. It's tough to argue about politics when good food is available. Steer the conversations away from arguments and focus on cooking together. These new family cookbooks offer great recipes that are easy for kids and adults to make together. The family will be so proud of their delicious creations that (hopefully) they'll forget about negative disagreements.
8. Share a happy personal milestone or memory from this past year. Keep the conversation around the table positive by asking each family member to share a proud personal milestone or memory from the past year.
9. Ask random questions as conversation starters. Ask questions that have nothing to do with politics and you may be surprised at some of the fun answers you get. Questions such as "Would you rather go without television or junk food for the rest of your life?” or “What is your favorite smell? What memory does it remind you of?” can provoke interesting responses. Need help with questions? Here are 20 random questions to get you started.
10. Share what you admire about each other. Have each person around the table share a quality they admire about everyone else at the table. This is helpful so if disagreements do come up, you can focus on the positive aspects of people.
11. Watch a classic movie as a family. Pop the popcorn and simmer up some hot chocolate or cider and settle in for a family movie night. Classics like The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music and It's a Wonderful Life are great feel-good movies that are sure to diminish the negative political talk.
—Leah R. Singer