Although the holidays offer a special time for families and loved ones to get together, they can also be stressful — partly because people often have unrealistic expectations of their friends and family members. When a supposedly festive occasion doesn’t turn out the way they had hoped, they end up feeling disappointed. Granted, a gathering of many different personalities can result in a potentially stressful situation, but you can empower yourself by remembering that there are several things you can do to help keep peace at the dinner table!
It’s Not About ‘You’
If you decide Thanksgiving dinner is the appropriate venue for airing your grievances about another family member, then you’re just selfishly making the whole occasion about you. Yes, you and a family member may actually have an issue to resolve, but Thanksgiving is no time to air your grievances for everyone present to hear. Instead, choose another time to address the issue, and discuss with only the other individual(s) involved. During your family Thanksgiving dinner, participants should talk about what’s been happening since the last time everyone gathered together, what everyone is thankful for, etc.
Don’t Talk About Politics
Steer clear of any political discussion. And if that suggestion offends you in any way, then you may need to read Kacey’s post on developing a thicker skin! As any etiquette expert will tell you, it’s just better not to discuss religion, politics, or other sensitive, hot-button topics at the dinner table. The more guests you have, the more diverse their viewpoints — and that mix will increase the likelihood that the debate will become heated.
After you get married, becoming part of someone else’s family can be an adjustment. No matter how wonderful your relationship is, the “outsider” coming into the family can feel out of place not being with his or her own family. It’s important not only to make them feel included in your own traditions but also to inquire about their family’s traditions. In our case, my sister Kaitlyn, her husband, Jarred, and their two little girls will join us for Thanksgiving — we already know that it’s important to Jarred to have his dad’s mashed potatoes. It’s easy enough to make two different kinds of mashed potatoes, and we’ve had fun trying something different — plus, it makes Jarred feel welcome and very much at home spending the holiday with our family.
Get the Kids Involved
Get the kids involved in some activities while you and other adults are cooking. If you need some ideas for such activities, Vicky and I tried out some fun and easy last-minute crafts with the kids that would be great for Thanksgiving Day. Talk to them about the history of Thanksgiving and ask them what they feel thankful for. If they are old enough to be in the kitchen, let them help and learn how to make some of your family’s traditional side dishes or desserts. In our family, we use some of the downtime to decorate Christmas cookies with the kids, which is always a big hit. Thanksgiving dinner provides a wonderful opportunity for talking with your family without distraction. The kids should be an integral part of that experience, too, so keep the iPads, iPhones, etc., away from the dinner table, draw the kids in, and allow them to become engaged in the family conversation.
Don’t Forget the True Meaning of Thanksgiving
Remember what the day is really about: it’s a time for families to gather together, enjoy one another’s company, and press the “pause” button long enough to give thanks for their many blessings. Thanksgiving is an all-inclusive holiday that’s not limited to any one specific religion but celebrates what really matters: being surrounded by your loved ones and appreciating everything you have.