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How to navigate family dynamics and political disagreements this Thanksgiving

Many political discussions are actually conversations about personal values. Do you expect political disagreement at your holiday gathering(s) this year?
Sophia Pappas
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Many political discussions are actually conversations about personal values. Do you expect political disagreement at your holiday gatherings this year?

Does your Thanksgiving turkey come with a side of angst?

Dr. Marva Robinson at St. Louis Public Radio
Emily Woodbury
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Dr. Marva Robinson is a clinical psychologist in St. Louis.

You’re not alone, said Dr. Marva Robinson, a clinical psychologist who said many of her patients experience stress during this time of year.

“I have a lot of people that become a little bit worried about how soon they should start cooking, how much they have to cook, how many people they're preparing for,” she told St. Louis on the Air guest host Jeremy D. Goodwin.

“So we have very open conversations around: ‘What are the holidays supposed to be about for you? What is joy for you? What is peace for you?’ And if cooking for a week in advance and cleaning dishes for five hours isn't something that's joyful for you, then we may want to reconsider what that looks like.”

She joined Tuesday’s show to discuss how to navigate complex family dynamics and hot-button topics that may come up during gatherings this holiday season.

“This is a time where it is not likely you will change someone's opinion in that moment. It is more likely that the individual will dig their heels in,” Robinson said. “I love ‘the pivot’ … finding a different way to break the tension. For some, it may be introducing humor. For others, it may be breaking out a board game. For others, it just may be a bit of awkward silence and just changing the topic.”

And if you want to keep the conversation going, she added, it’s best to broach the conversation later.

“The average individual may be less willing to bend, so to speak, when there's an audience present, versus if it's a one-on-one conversation. So if I really want to just share information, I probably do that a week later when I go by to drop off a pie or something,” Robinson said. “But doing it when there is an audience may not be the best time to get them to change their mind.”

For more tips on navigating complex family and friend dynamics, listen to Robinson’s conversation on St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

How to navigate family dynamics and political disagreements this Thanksgiving

And it bears remembering that many of our neighbors won’t be fortunate enough to enjoy a nice warm feast on Thursday. Here are some organizations that help people find food and shelter:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.