So, I am one of those lucky ducks that has an amazing family to visit with on Thanksgiving. We’re all fairly like-minded regarding the usual holiday table fodder, such as politics and social issues and economics. We play the song Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie and wear our PJ’s to eat and then usually binge on fun movies or Mystery Science Theater. All that aside, I do know that nobody wants to spend those precious few days off work in a battle royal with their family.
And I know for some of us, this particular holiday means the dreaded and awkward conversations with family members who demand to know when you’re going to have that baby or why you didn’t vote like them or how climate change is a Chinese hoax. Or whatever. So, I’m here to provide some user friendly and guaranteed tactics to get you through those conversations and help make your Thanksgiving a truly peaceful day. Special thanks to PsychCentral and RawStory for helping give me some ideas.
- You may need to stay away from alcohol. If you know that you can’t help but “say how you feel” after a couple of glasses of wine, it may be best to abstain until your more combative family members leave. And of course, drinking to excess with kids around and/or in your care is probably not a great idea anyway.
- Team up with some of your like-minded relatives to help get each other’s backs when awkward topics or questions are brought up. “So, Karen, when are you going to have a baby?” or “So, are you and Tim EVER going to stop living in sin and get married?” have a lot less sting if a cousin or siblings can swoop to help.
- Delegate tasks so that everyone is rotating in and out. That could give you some reprieve. When the inevitable Election 2016 topic comes up, it may just so happen (wink wink) that you need to take something out of the oven or cover something.
- Look up “conversation games” or “icebreaker” games that can provide positive and healthful topics of conversation. This is a great one for kids, too, since a lot of cousins don’t get to see each other or spend a ton of time together.
- Be prepared to know your emotions and to manage them. This is critical in any type of communication anyway. If you disagree with an opinion or point, ask questions and listen instead of immediately making it your job to point out how crazy/stupid/intolerant/unethical their statement is. Remember that accepting someone’s view is different from yours is not agreeing to it. There’s nothing to stop you from saying “Well, I don’t share that viewpoint. Grandma (or other neutral family member), this recipe is awesome. Can you remind me what’s in it?” Or plan your canned deflection statement in advance.
- I like to use humor to my advantage sometimes. Laughter is often a great way to break tension, and I often find that a smile and chuckle can diffuse any situation. If you’re attempts at deflection don’t work, share a recent embarrassing story or accidently spill water in your lap. Make sure to laugh about it and encourage a more positive vibe at the table.
- And if none of this works and you find yourself getting angry, take a bathroom break. This is my number one anger management technique. Get yourself out of there so you can breathe and avoid an outburst.
- Lastly, you may not be blessed with a family that can provide a non-toxic environment. If you know this about your own family, this may be the year for you to host a Thanksgiving with friends and non-drama family members.
And remember, you always have the option to volunteer at a food shelter or other organization so that you can spend the day spreading joy and good will, instead of splatting grandpa in the face with mashed potatoes (even though he probably deserved it).