Thanksgiving is almost upon us, bringing with it turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin spice lattes. For some, this is a much-anticipated family holiday. And while we hope that all members of our beautiful Kaleidoscope community will spend Thanksgiving with supportive families, we know that, for some, this may be a holiday with awkward and uncomfortable dinner table talk with family members that are still on their journey to acceptance.
If you are feeling unsure or nervous about what the Thanksgiving holiday may have in store, for yourself or for your LGBTQ+ child, you are not alone. Holidays carry a lot of emotional weight, but LGBTQ+ young people can still enjoy the holiday while also taking good care of their hearts and themselves. Here are some suggestions for setting boundaries that will allow for all family members to have an enjoyable holiday:
Talking with Grandparents:
Some older people may be unfamiliar with the terminology and pronoun use that is common in the LGBTQ+ community. Be patient with grandparents and older relatives, as their intentions might be good. It may be helpful to talk with grandparents before the holiday. A grandparent may not yet be able to accept and support their LGBTQ+ grandchild, but they can still be expected to interact with their grandchild in a respectful manner when attending a family gathering. Offer explicit clarification for any new names to use, what pronouns to use, and how to demonstrate affirmative support, especially regarding clothing, hairstyles, make-up and tattoos. Grandparents just may surprise you with their acceptance!
Hang out with allies:
Try to seat LGBTQ+ young people at dinner next to someone who is supportive of them and make them feel safe. Allow everyone to spend the time before and after the holiday meal with the people they choose to be with.
Avoid Political Discussions:
With the political landscape so heated right now, the best way to practice self-care may be to just opt out if conversations turn political. Even for the most passionate advocates, the holidays may not be the best time to change people’s minds. Better to save everyone’s energy for another time. If politics does come up and you are not comfortable with the conversation, nor able to change it, you can have an “exit” strategy where you leave the table/conversation with a pre-determined excuse.
For LGBTQ+ young people who may not have family members who are able to provide affirming support or who may be spending the holiday alone, the goal may be just getting through the holiday. Let your LGBTQ+ child know that you are trying to make the day feel manageable.
Acknowledge that your LGBTQ+ child may be feeling sad or defeated by a family member’s intolerance. Encourage them to text with friends that make them laugh and feel loved. This kind of connection will allow them to feel better and remind them that they have people in their corner who adore them for their authentic self. And knowing that there is someone to vent with just may give everyone the power to enjoy the holiday.
Even in the most supportive and loving families, the holidays can feel overwhelming. It is ok for all family members to take some time to be alone and re-charge. Encourage everyone to make time to get outside and go for a walk, or take a nap or read a book. It is the right thing for everyone to make self-care a priority.
Kaleidoscope is always here for you and especially during the holidays. Our weekly virtual Pride Club for 12-17 year olds and weekly virtual Coffee Chat for 18-24 year olds are safe spaces to share your thoughts and feelings. For more information, please visit KaleidoscopeLGBTQ.org