Navigating Family Conflict This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a day that often brings the whole family together – which can unfortunately lead to some tense situations. But Thanksgiving can still be a day of joy, love, happy memories, and delicious food, rather than a day of family conflict.

Recently on Morning Air®, licensed marriage and family therapist and notable Catholic hipster Tommy Tighe stopped by to help us navigate those tough situations we may find ourselves in this holiday season:

How do I celebrate the day when my family is anti-Catholic?
A lot of people are faced with that, especially people who have converted to the Faith as they’ve grown up. Their families don’t get their Catholic Faith and can even be hostile to it, and that can make for a very hostile Thanksgiving.

We have to take these moments to evangelize, obviously, to share the joy and the hope that is within us, and maybe explain, if that is going to be helpful. But we also have to think about what is the goal and what are we going to be able to reasonably expect out of a conversation. I’ve noticed that sometimes I try to force a conversation to explain my love of the Faith, or some teaching that someone may be complaining about or questioning. And sometimes it just doesn’t work out, because the person isn’t open to it.

I think we have to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts to discern if we should address something or if maybe it’s best to just take one for the team and let it go for the sake of having a happy Thanksgiving.

What should I do when there is a family member I don’t get along with?
It’s a time to take a step back during the holiday season, embrace the love that God wants us to have for each other, and really focus on that. It’s so hard to see some family members who go through their life so angry at someone, for something that happened so many years ago. They carry it all the time and have this bitterness in their heart – and it doesn’t feel good for anybody. It doesn’t feel good for the person holding it or the person getting it directed at them.

I think it’s an opportunity to set that all aside, maybe spend some time talking about the good memories that you’ve had together with your family. Or if the time strikes, it might be a good time to step aside with that member of the family you need to work on something with, and work it out so that you can have a peaceful holiday.

How can I bring myself to forgive a family member who has hurt me?
When you’ve been traumatized over and over by a person or a group of people, it’s a very hard thing to forgive. It’s a vulnerable thing, and there’s a part of everyone, I think, that feels like they have to not forgive as a way of punishing that other person. But it’s so clear that when we don’t forgive people, no matter what they’ve done and how hard it is, it’s really just eating us up on the inside.

How can I celebrate when I’m grieving the loss of a family member?
About 18 months ago [we lost our beautiful baby boy], and in the beginning it was really difficult to get closer to holidays, because you felt like something was missing, obviously. But it really brought about the importance of living our life, and realizing that our time here is very short. You can’t waste time.

You can’t go through another holiday season being angry at someone for something you can resolve. The time that we have here is moving every day, we don’t even know how close we’re getting to the end. It’s time to just bury the hatchet and get on board with what Jesus wants us to do with our family.

Listen to the full conversation with Tommy Tighe below:

Morning Air can be heard weekdays from 6-9 a.m. Eastern/3-6 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.