Five Tips to Keep Political Peace at the Holiday Table

As eggnog is poured and rolls are served, a looming topic of debate is likely to come up: politics. Especially with midterm elections recently occurring, students at college are more inclined to form independent political views without family pressures. Holiday gatherings – infamous for family arguments – may very well be the first time students will join in on the political debate and share their differing political opinions.

Dr. Carolyn Brodbeck, associate professor in psychology at Chapman, talked to Prowl about coping mechanisms intended to help prepare students for political disagreements that may await them at home. Here are five tips that stood out.


  1. Before heading to dinner, self-reflect.

As students spend a majority of time with peers and professors in a college setting, their beliefs may change or develop to differ from how they were raised. As a result, “a student may perceive their place in the family as changing,” Brodbeck states, which requires a reflection on one’s own beliefs as a separate entity. In the process, it is useful to reflect on the university experience in shaping ideas, as well as your place in the family and in the world. Ask yourself for example, “How would I describe my current relationship with my family? How has my relationship with my family changed since embarking on my Chapman university experience? What do I see as the most important challenges that my family and community are dealing with?” Brodbeck informs.

Self-reflection is important to creating a sense of awareness of the world around an individual, an essential part of the university experience as we learn to become more independent. Photo by Alyssa Harrell.


  1. De-escalate the debate.

Instead of lashing out at family members for their differing political views, note contrasting opinions and separate them from your relationship with the individual. “Dad, I can see that we have extremely different perspectives on this political issue. It seems like this is really important to you. I just want to let you know that I will always respect you as my father even if we don’t agree on this or other topics,” Brodbeck uses as an example.

Because many discussions occur at the table, it is useful to simmer down a heated debate with compliments about the food. Photo courtesy of Claire Treu.


  1. Use entertainment to divert debate.

Before heading home for the holidays, look to your favorite games to steer the altercation into a friendlier direction. Plan in advance, having games like “Monopoly” or “Life,” to extinguish a brewing or heated political debate. Just maybe don’t suggest Cards Against Humanity…

Games typically require sole concentration, so it is a good way to steer clear of debate either temporarily or permanently. Photo by Alyssa Harrell.


  1. Help out in the kitchen.

Although it is nice to show appreciation directly at the holiday table, a good way to express your gratitude is through helping set, serve, and clean up after the meal. This acts as a good way to escape from argument while earning respect from your family members. “Your grandparent or whoever is heading chef duty will be grateful that you are taking the initiative to help out!” Brodbeck states.

Heading into the kitchen is a good way to contribute help to the table rather than another person to engage in conflict. Photo by Alyssa Harrell.


  1. Engage in family tale-telling.

In a heavy discussion, make light of the situation through compliments of a family member. Perhaps ask how holiday dinners were when older family members were growing up. “Your interest shows respect, especially towards courageous ancestors who have made today possible,” Brodbeck informs.

The telling of familial stories promotes bonding as it steers away from a perhaps less than desirable debate. Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels.


 

Sleigh the Holiday Season at Your College Home Away From Home

End of semester stress may have you feeling like the Grinch, but don’t let that crush your holiday spirit. You may have gotten into the groove of family traditions leading up to winter holidays in the past, but between finals and Southern California’s less-than-wintery weather, it can be easy to lose the holiday spirit. Here are five ways to celebrate the holiday season in your college home.


1. Deck The Hall

Many students take to decorating the inside of their dorms for the holiday season. Whip out the wrapping paper and the ribbons to include your dorm doors in the holiday spirit.

The welcome area in Argyros Forum has loads of butcher paper for free. Photo courtesy of Veronica Millison.

To make a tree:
  1. Cut about five feet of butcher paper into several small pointed strips.
  2. Fold the strips into a tube and tape the back, leaving the pointed edges on the outside.
  3. Flatten the taped strips and pull the outer point to create a raised effect.
  4. Tape the strips to the door, adding more as you work your way down to the stump.
  5. To create the stump, cut a small piece of butcher paper and put it on the bottom of the tree.
  6. You can also cut out ornaments of your desire or hang real ones using mini Command hooks.
To make a snowman:
  1. Cut enough butcher paper to make three circles of varying sizes, small, medium, and large.
  2. Tape onto the door the smallest circle on the top and largest on the bottom, connecting each one.
  3. Add a cutout hat, scarf and facial features – or draw them directly onto the circles.
  4. Cut small white circles and tape them sporadically on the door to create snow.

2. Make a Holiday Treat

Nothing says “Hello holidays!” like good food. No matter what you’re celebrating, ask for the family recipe to your favorite dish and share it with your roommates and professors. Bake with your friends in the fully stocked Morlan Hall kitchen – just bring your own ingredients and clean up when you are done.

Many students take to coffee to push through finals. Spice it up and treat yourself with a side of a holiday inspired coffee cake. Photo by Alyssa Harrell.

Easy Coffee Cake Recipe – inspired by and courtesy of Kristyn Merkley, from Lil’ Luna.

You will need:
  • A 9×13 inch pan (or proportional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups of brown sugar
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 3 cups of flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup oil
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 1 cup milk
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease the pan and set it aside.
  3. Combine eggs, oil, milk, butter, and vanilla in a mixing bowl.
  4. In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Pour the content of the dry bowl into the larger mixing bowl and whisk to create the batter
  6. Pour the batter into the greased pan so that the top is even.
  7. To create the topping, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon.
  8. Evenly sprinkle the topping over the batter in the pan.
  9. Using a butter knife, create swirls on top of the batter to blend the topping in.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes, let cool for two minutes, and enjoy!

3. Set the Winter Scene in SoCal

Although Southern California is not a winter wonderland, create the ambience yourself and make use of what SoCal has to offer. The fire pit at the dorm pool is open until 9 p.m. – giving you plenty of time to enjoy a night under the string lights roasting chestnuts and making s’mores.

If you don’t mind going off campus, the sand is SoCal’s snow. The beach is a great place to have a bonfire and roast your holiday treats.
Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash.


4. Join the Community

Grab your friends and go to the Tree Lighting Ceremony and Candlelight Choir Procession in the Orange Circle. This year, the ceremony will be held on Sunday, Dec. 2, from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Don’t miss the tree lighting and music starting at 5:15 p.m. 

Shops and restaurants will be open for you to grab a bite while you enjoy the event. Photo by Alyssa Harrell.


5. Gather Your Friends For a Gift Exchange

No matter what you celebrate, gift exchanging has been made a large part of the holiday season. Additionally, it’s a great way to get together with your friends before the end of the year.

There are several options to gift-giving, perhaps the most common being Secret Santa and White Elephant. Photo by Alyssa Harrell.