Ask an Apostle: My parents won’t stop talking about politics

Teresa Coda answers your questions this week.
Catholic Voices

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Q: Whenever I go home and visit my parents, all they want to do is talk about politics! It’s not that I always disagree with them (I do disagree with them a lot, but sometimes they make some good points), it’s just that it’s ALL. THEY. TALK. ABOUT. When I agree with them, I usually just politely nod along but I don’t know how to get them to stop without them trying to make it an argument. I don’t want to have to defend my beliefs every time I visit them. What do I do?

—Politicking parents

A: It so happens that I have a similar issue to the one that you face, though with a different relation than my parents. When recently discussing the problem of persistently political conversations in certain social circles, a friend and I brainstormed three potential approaches, which I’ll alliteratively package as avoid, alter, or accept. We probably both know plenty of people who minimize visits with parents, in-laws, extended family, etc. due to the tedious—or in some cases toxic—conversation, but it doesn’t sound like this is an option that you are considering at the moment. 


This leaves you with the choices of attempting to alter your parents’ behavior or accepting it. The thing about changing someone else is that it is really hard to do, if not impossible. As the conventional therapeutic wisdom goes: We can’t change others, we can only change ourselves. We can, however, set boundaries, and we can also ask for what we need and want. You might consider saying, “I love being with you, but political conversation wears me wears me out. Do you think we could direct our conversations elsewhere this visit? I’d love to hear what books/movies/shows/hobbies you’ve been enjoying lately.” 

If this doesn’t work—or if you decide not to go the “alter” route—you are left with acceptance. In some ways, acceptance is the hardest approach to master, but the good news is that if you figure out a way to maintain inner peace amidst outer cacophony, you could probably get yourself a book deal in addition to having a nice visit with your parents! In all seriousness, consider what it will take to help you stay centered and calm as you listen to your parents talk about politics ad nauseam. Maybe it is extra time in prayer or meditation on visit days; maybe it is a long walk to break up the together-time; maybe it is maintaining a text thread with a friend to whom you can vent throughout the trip. The point is that acceptance doesn’t have to be done through sheer will-power; give yourself the assists you need.

—Teresa Coda

About the author

Teresa Coda

Teresa Coda works in parish faith formation. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two young daughters.

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