It’s common to disagree with things your parents say, but it doesn’t make it any easier to navigate.
On Monday, Jeremy Clarkson’s daughter Emily released a statement saying she “stands against” her father’s latest column about Meghan Markle, in which he said he “hated” Meghan “on a cellular level” and admitted he dreamt “of the day when crowds throw lumps of excrement at her”.
“My views are and have always been clear when it comes to misogyny, bullying and the treatment of women by the media,” Emily Clarkson wrote on her Instagram story.
Her public stance against her father has got us thinking about those all-too familiar moments around the Christmas dinner table, when a family member expresses an opinion you fundamentally disagree with.
Do you challenge it due to a sense of moral duty? And if you’re going to risk disrupting the Christmas peace, how do you ensure your point is actually heard?
Psychologist Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo says it is normal for there to be inter-generational differences of opinion within families – and it’s healthy to have discussions about current affairs.
“I think it’s important to remember what you value about the relationship with your family member, even if you have quite fundamental differences of opinion on a particular topic,” she tells HuffPost UK. “It is ok to express that you feel differently, but it is the way that we do this that is important.”
If you’re happily tucking into your sprouts, Dr Quinn-Cirillo says it’s worth asking yourself whether the comment is something you want to fall out over.
“There may actually be some occasions where a view expressed by a family member will impact the relationship that you have with them,” she says.
If that’s the case, speaking out may be the best path forward. But how to do it?
“Firstly it is important to clarify what your views are and why you feel differently,” says Dr Quinn-Cirillo. “Part of a healthy discussion is taking the time to understand someone else’s point of view and how their opinion has been informed.”
She adds that it’s important to think about what your boundaries are for discussing a particular topic or opinion and trying to keep the conversation within those parameters.
“It is not for us to ‘change’ someone’s mind bur we may want to express our
opinion and be heard. It is ok to ask to be heard and take turns to hear each side of the discussion,” she says.
“It is also ok if you do not want to have a further discussion about a topic where
you have fundamentally differing views. This may be the case in respect to topics where societal expectations have changed and it is no longer appropriate to express views. Especially those that are harmful or degrading.”
At Christmas time, we’re often physically trapped with family members for a number of days, which makes cooling off difficult. Because of this, it can be helpful to bring the conversation to a close and establish how you want to the relationship to be going forward.
You may want to change the world, but you also don’t want to be at war with your family member for days.
“This may look like says ‘I love you or I love you as my parent, but we have to
respect we have different opinions on X’ or ‘I would like it if we can have a moratorium on talking about Y,’” Dr Quinn-Cirillo says.
“It may be helpful to remind them that you are thankful for your upbringing
and values instilled – such as being supported to question the world, respect people’s opinions. ‘I am using those philosophies now in expressing my differing views on this subject.’”