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Stop Trying to Change Your Parents and You’ll Have a Better Holiday

Want to improve your eating during the holidays? Then stop trying to change your parents’ views or their distress about your views. Heed the wisdom of New York City writer Joan Reisman-Brill, who responds to ethical questions for The Humanist.com in “The Humanist Dilemma”. Here’s her response to a letter writer asking how to get his views accepted by his parents who believe they’ve failed him because he doesn’t think as they do about religion (Issue 771, 8/10/18).

“The first thing you have to do is recognize that you can’t control what your parents believe any more than they can control what you believe. You can wish they’d see things your way, just as they can wish you’d see things their way. But wishing doesn’t make it happen, and maybe nothing can. Regardless, you need to live your life, let them live theirs, and make the best of whatever intersection there is.

Whether or not your parents see your divergent views as a failure on their part is irrelevant. Telling them it’s not their fault will not change their minds if they believe that it is. You’re not doing anything wrong, and it’s on them to accept or reject your life, while it’s on you to live it according to your own lights. This is what you’ve been doing, except you keep worrying about what they think, and it’s eating you up.

Accept that your parents will think whatever they do, and since you’re not responsible for that, just put it out of your mind. If you can’t enjoy their company, avoid it. But I wonder how much of what you describe is really going on with your parents, and how much is you projecting these ideas and expectations on them—perhaps even leading them to react in the ways you expect them to. In any case, do whatever you can to let that baggage go, even if it involves some therapy to sort out your sense of guilt. Then put it aside. If there’s a problem, it’s theirs, not yours. They can, if they choose, perpetuate it in their minds. But you can, without their assent, unilaterally resolve not to keep it going in yours.”

Imagine going through the holiday season (and your life!) not fussing about the differences you have with your parents (or relatives). You could think as you want, and they could think as they want. They could get upset, but that wouldn’t bother you. You’d let them have their views, their distress about yours, then carry on with what you believe is right for you. Try following Joan Brill’s advice this holiday season and see if it’s not a merrier time without all the stress caused by family differences. My bet is that this will go a long way toward curbing your emotional eating.

Best,

Karen

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