If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year – and even if you’ll just be a guest – a perfect turkey and pumpkin pie aren’t all you’ll need to survive the holidays with your friends and family. Family dramas, headline news and interpersonal conflicts that have been kept at bay 364 days of the year have the potential to be powderkegs when the wine starts flowing and complicated family dynamics combine.
But there are ways to avoid some of the stressful situations that could arise on what should be a holiday about coming together and counting blessings. Follow these 8 tips to keep your Thanksgiving running as smoothly as the mashed potatoes you’ve so lovingly made.
- Remember there’s no such thing as ‘perfect.’ Try as we might, real life isn’t a Norman Rockwell painting and expecting it to be only sets you up for disappointment. There will always be hiccups so by adjusting your expectations, you’ll less likely be disappointed and take some pressure off yourself. This is especially important to keep in mind if you’ve been through (or are going through) a divorce or separation and are facing a holiday that looks different from other years. Allow yourself to let go of your notions of what “should be” and move toward accepting what is.
- Keep conversations light. Families are typically comprised of people from both sides of the aisle so try to avoid getting too involved in a discussion about the current state of politics. You’d also be advised to steer clear of sensitive topics such as a divorce or other sensitive lifestyle-specific topics.
- Don’t feel obligated to indulge personally invasive conversations. While she may mean well, your Aunt Mabel may pry more than she should – but you aren’t obligated to indulge her every invasive question or heed her unsolicited advice. This can be especially important to keep in mind if you’re going through a divorce (or considering one). To avoid any issues, simply acknowledge her concern, thank her, and change subjects.
- Get physical. For many people, exercise is their daily method of dealing with stress and maintaining good mental health – and Thanksgiving should be no different. Not only is it a great idea since you’ll be eating more than normal, but it can also give you an excuse to go get some fresh air when you need a minute to yourself.
- Have interesting (and safe) topics at-the-ready. Have some neutral, pleasant conversation starters top-of-mind to direct dialogue in the right direction. Also actively listen for divisive conversation topics and when necessary, jump in and gently steer it to an alternative – but still interesting – topic.
- Subtly remind guests to behave. As the host, offer a toast at the beginning of your meal to thank your guests for attending and gently remind them to play nice. Something like, “In honor of this holiday of gratitude, let’s focus on our many blessings and all the things that unite us around this table.” Not the host? You can still be the voice of reason (or distraction) if situations get uncomfortable.
- Seat strategically: Consider a seating plan with name cards to make choosing a seat less awkward for first-time guests or significant others. Seat elders next to younger family members and introverts next to extroverts to mix it up. And if you know of any preexisting drama, keep those involved separated.
- Be the bartender: Not only will you impress your guests by being an attentive host, but in taking control of refilling glasses, you’ll know who’s had a little too much to drink and can strategize accordingly. Drinking to excess will lower inhibitions, potentially fueling arguments and dampening the mood. And remember to encourage any guest to take an Uber or cab home if they’ve had one too many (go ahead and call it for them).
By remembering these tips, you’ll position yourself and your guests to revel in the true spirit of Thanksgiving: family, friends, food, festivities and fun.
And from our Anton Castro Law ‘family’ to yours, we wish you and your loved ones the happiest Thanksgiving yet!