How to diffuse a holiday dinnertime argument


HOUSTON – With all the excitement of Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season, there can still be some anxiety.

Getting everything together and bringing family from near and far in the same room for extended periods, can trigger and provoke mixed feelings.

We spoke with expert Dr. Denise Rashti on ways to help prevent dinnertime conflict and make the most of the holiday season this year with your family.

Do you see an increase in business or patient visits before the thanksgiving holiday? Why do you believe some patients might need more care during the holiday season?

Patient visits go up as the holidays approach. The reason for the increase for mental health services increase for many reasons. First, a lot of people have a seasonal component. The increase in depression is well known in places like Alaska, the East Coast, and further north. However, the shorter days, even in Houston, can cause an increase in depression. The holidays in themselves can be difficult. For many, spending the holidays after losing loved ones causes a lot of pain. Even with time the memories can stir a lot of emotions. On the other hand, the holidays can be very stressful. People can have a hard time planning and getting things done. People feel they have to be happy at this time, and the family dynamics are challenging.

What would the best strategy to diffuse a holiday dinnertime argument with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching?

The best strategy in dealing with the holidays is to be proactive before the gatherings actually happen. If someone can only tolerate a certain amount of time with individuals, then should only spend that amount with them. Let the family know when s/he will be present and for how long. If certain individuals always cause difficulties, try to sit and stay away from them during the gathering. Before attending, think about scenarios that may occur so awareness is already at the forefront and strategies are already worked out. Remember, to stay away from heated topics in general like politics, but also topics that are family-specific. If all the proactive work has not helped to prevent a situation, then the key is to disengage. When conversation starts to heat up, take a time-out. People do not outgrow time out, but call it by a different name. Take the time out as early as possible. Prevention is always the best strategy.

About Dr. Rashti

Dr. Rashti is a board-certified adult psychiatrist in private practice for almost 20 years. She finished her medical training in July of 2000, at Baylor College of Medicine in The Texas Medical Center. She also completed postgraduate Study in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy at the Houston-Galveston Psychoanalytic Institute in July 2000. She specializes in psychopharmacology and psychotherapy and has a special interest in mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and women’s issues.