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Surviving Thanksgiving with Family

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of reflection and gratitude.  It is delightful to reflect on life and all of the things that you are grateful for.  This year, 2020, has been challenging and at times has pushed people past their breaking points.  But if you really think about it I am sure that you can create a list of the things that you are grateful for.  Focus on those things.

However, even if giving thanks and gratitude is your given strength, Thanksgiving gatherings with friends, family and extended family can challenge even the most grateful, positive person.  This year our gatherings will look different.  They are likely to be significantly smaller, maybe they are virtual or maybe they are not happening at all.  Below I will offer suggestions to turn a challenging gathering into one you can be thankful you attended.


Go In With An Open Mind

It is so important to go to your Thanksgiving gathering with an open mind.  Maybe something happened in years past that got under your skin.  Maybe your aunt has political views that are opposite of yours.  Remember this is a new year.  Try to go into the gathering with a positive attitude.  Don’t spend your time at the gathering looking for offenses, things that are wrong or finding things to support your negative story.  Instead look for the positive, try and catch people being good and doing well.  We find what we are looking for.


Overlook What is Bad

Even if you are trying to catch people doing and being good, you will see things that have the potential to get under your skin.  Don’t let yourself be offended.  Work to let things go.  This year has been so contentious with the election, social issues and a world-wide pandemic.  There are so many things that have the potential to offend you.  Don’t take the bait!  If someone tries to engage you in an offensive conversation get out of it.  You can do this several ways.  First, you can work to steer the conversation into a way that avoids the offensive traps.  You can also set boundaries.  Politely tell the person that you are not comfortable talking about the particular topic but that you would love to discuss something else with him or her.  And, if all else fails you can politely excuse yourself and move about the room or the house.



A great way to navigate a Thanksgiving gathering is to ask questions!  Most people love to talk about themselves.  Questions that require a story for an answer are the best.  You will get to learn more about the person and his or her life.  Asking questions has three benefits.  First, it keeps the spot light off of you.  Second, it will keep you out of a potentially offensive debate with someone who is challenging.  It also focuses the conversation on the person you are talking with.  In fact, they are likely to want to continue talking and you just get to listen.


Make Yourself Useful

If you get tired of interacting with those at your Thanksgiving gathering or just need a break you can offer to help.  Making yourself useful is not only helpful but it will give you something to focus on.  If the host or hostess doesn’t have a job for you at that moment you can offer to take the kids outside and play with them.  Again, this will help the host or hostess and give you time to center yourself.

Woman Helping in Kitchen on Thanksgiving


Put Down the Drinks

All of the strategies above are very helpful to make a Thanksgiving gathering more pleasurable.  However, they will be hard to practice if you have had too much to drink.  So if you would like to enjoy a drink have one or two over the course of the gathering, but no more.  You want to make sure that you are never intoxicated or too off your game to deal with things that may come your way.


Above all else, have fun!  Thanksgiving is a day of reflection and gratitude.  Try and find the good in your gathering, even if it looks very different this year.  Making the best of the day will make it easier to go to next year’s Thanksgiving gathering and give you fun stories to tell year after year.


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