WHILE THANKSGIVING is most often a time for family togetherness, quality time, and delicious food, it can sometimes be a time of conflict as well.
For any family — even those with the very best of intentions — the holidays can bring with them stress and pressure, which can then lead to conflict, explains Queensborough Community College psychology professor Azadeh Aalai, Ph.D. in her Psychology Today blogpost, “Did Your Thanksgiving Come with a Side of Family Drama?”
“Many of us may feel pressure that everything be perfect when we are visiting our loved ones or hosting the festivities,” Aalai writes. “This disconnect between what we imagine the holiday with our family should be versus how it actually is may trigger conflict within the family.”
SHALOM BAYIT FOR THANKSGIVING
Resolving conflict and maintaining a healthful home are important concepts in Judaism. Maintaining peace in the home is a Jewish value referred to in Hebrew as Shalom Bayit. t emphasizes the importance of working together as a family make the home a nurturing, harmonious environment despite whatever chaos, stress, or conflict may challenge peace.
Many families hang an inscribed plaque or hamsa in the home that displays the modern Hebrew poem “Blessing for the Home,” known in Hebrew as Birkat HaBayit. It reads:
Let no sadness come through this gate.
Let no trouble to this dwelling.
Let no fear come through this door.
Let no conflict be in this place.
Let this home be filled with the blessing of joy and peace.
PEACEFUL CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Even when people mean well,some amount of family conflict is inevitable. Fortunately, some conflict may actually be healthy for a family — provided it’s handled respectfully and affectionately.
As described in the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology article, “Constructive and Destructive Marital Conflict, Emotional Security and Children's Prosocial Behavior,” open, peaceful resolutions to problems can influence children in a positive way. The authors of the study, Kathleen McCoy, E. Mark Cummings, and Patrick T. Davies, supports earlier theories that “constructive conflict reduces the probability of children having aggressive tendencies and may aid children in the development of their own problem solving, coping, and conflict resolution abilities.”
There are many ways in which a family can work to maintain peace in the home during Thanksgiving. Mihal Levy, Ph.D, a psychotherapist and neuropsychologist, suggests families prepare for holiday drama in order to minimize it. In her Jewish Journal op-ed, “Thanksgiving Day Survival Guide,” she suggests Thanksgiving hosts take the following preemptive measures:
- Reserve a Change of Subject — “Keep a topic of conversation on hand for those uncomfortable moments,” Levy advises.
- Keep It Real — Set reasonable expectations for the holiday. “Accept that it won’t be perfect,” Levy writes.
- Mix It Up — By inviting friends or distant relatives outside the confrontational fray, families can relieve some of the dramatic pressure. These “buffer guests,” Levy suggests, should be easy-going, cheerful friends “who always know how to keep the party going.”
- Try a Kids’ Table — Consider letting the children off the “adult conversation hook” by giving them their own space. “You can always retreat to that table when the going gets tough,” Levy quips.
With any given holiday, some level of family conflict is inevitable. Just remember: conflict resolution is a healthy family effort, provided it’s handled respectfully and affectionately.
PJ LIBRARY BOOKS & SHALOM BAYIT
Spark a meaningful conversation about Shalom Bayit (peace in the home) with your children. Read one of these Jewish children’s books together as a family:
November 5, 2014