20 Survival Tips For Thanksgiving Family Gatherings

Thanksgiving is a yearly celebration where families get together, feast on turkey, and remember what they’re thankful for. But like any gathering of people, there’s always going to be some people that don’t get along.

This is true especially with relatives. If that’s your situation, you can still get through the holiday without disowning everybody. Here’s 20 tips on how to survive thanksgiving with family.

How To Survive Thanksgiving With Family

Turkey potato bread stuffing how to survive thanksgiving with family

1. Avoid drinking too much

A drink can be tempting when hearing about your aunt’s man problems or your uncle’s conspiracy theories. Still, resist the urge to chug a few beers or down some glasses of wine.

If you end up getting a little drunk, you risk saying or doing something inappropriate. Your family members might get upset with you, or worse, they might laugh at you.

It’ll end up being a story retold every Thanksgiving. If you’re going to drink, limit yourself to no more than one or two drinks. After that, stick to water for the rest of the evening.

2. Deflect on personal topics

Everybody has some relative that’s a little bit nosy. They want to dive right into all the business going on in your life.

While some ask questions for polite conversation, maybe you’d rather avoid getting into certain topics. Perhaps you’ve recently let go of a bad relationship or work isn’t going so well.

There are easy ways you can deflect. Here’s some responses you can use for common subjects that can potentially be brought up.

  • Person: So, how’s your love life going?
    You: Oh, I’m just focused on other things right now. (Go into detail about one or two things you’re focused on to shift the conversation)
  • Person: How’s the job been going?
    You: I don’t even want to think about it right now. (chuckle) Too much going on, but I’m employed at least. How’s your job going?
  • Person: How’s school going?
    You: I’m just glad to be getting a break from it. How’s life been going for you?
  • Person: When are you having kids?
    You: It’s not something we’re thinking about, but maybe one day. (If the person asking has kids, ask how their kids are doing?
  • Person: You look like you’ve gained some weight?
    You: I don’t really check the scale much, but you look great.
  • Person: Did you lose weight?
    You: I don’t know, but you’re looking pretty good.
  • Person: This president is just crazy, right?
    You: I don’t really focus on politics that much. I got enough problems in my own life to think about. (chuckle)

3. Avoid politics

Especially when it’s an election year, it’s best to try avoiding political discussions. Even if you’re all Democrats or Republicans, it can set a negative tone on a festive occasion.

If you do have relatives on the opposite side, try to maintain peace between everyone. Keep everybody from feeling attacked for what they believe.

Try to steer the conversation in a positive direction. Maybe suggest a way they can help out in the community.

In general, it’s best if the conversation just sticks to sports or other safe topics. Here are a list of some safe ones to talk about:

  • Movies
  • TV Shows
  • Where you live
  • Food
  • Restaurants
  • Weather
  • Pets

Clinical psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen recommends finding topics that you have in common with your relatives. A shared activity that you both have joy in or a shared value that you both have.

4. Have a game on

I have many fond memories of the game being on after finishing dinner at my grandparents’ home. It’s a great way to limit any potential awkward conversations coming up.

There’s usually a football game on during and after the time people are done eating. If you’re not a fan of the sport, you can always sit somewhere else while people are watching. But if you’re feeling brave, feel free to watch and say something about what’s going on.

For those of you that are fans, try not to get too excited when watching. One of your other family members may be a fan of the team that’s losing. Don’t rub it in if you’re rooting against that team.

5. Play with the kids

The great thing about kids is they don’t ask a lot of questions. They just want to do something fun and not be bored.

When everyone’s done eating, you can take them outside and play. If it’s too cold, maybe you can bring some cards with you and teach them a game. The time will fly by before you know it.

6. Help around the house

There’s usually some kind of help needed with everything to get prepared. If you arrive early when things are still cooking, help out in the kitchen.

Once everybody’s done eating, you could help clear the table and wash dishes. All of these activities take time and limit the chance of any uncomfortable chats.

7. Make people tell stories about themselves

Most people in general enjoy talking about their own lives, particularly old folks. You can ask them about a bunch of stuff back when they were growing up.

They’ll go into so many stories, any questions about your life or politics will be a distant thought. Best of all, you get to learn things you never knew about your relatives.

8. Share travel photos

If you’ve been to different places recently, that can be an easy conversation to have. The person you’re talking to can enjoy the images and you can talk about what you liked about being there.

Other people might end up sharing some of their travel photos too. It can be a long conversation about something very light.

9. Bring someone with you

Having a friend or partner with you can help lighten the amount of talk you deal with from some relatives. Less questions will come at you with your guest having to answer some.

People also usually try to be polite among guests. The conversation may not get too crazy as a result. Just warn your guest not to say anything too personal about you if someone tries to fish for stories.

10. Be strategic about seating

If you already know who you don’t want to sit next to, then make sure you pick your seat out early. You could place a jacket or another article of clothing on the chair.

Encourage someone you like or tolerate to take the seat next to you. Who knows, if the person feels the same way about you, they might try to sit in a seat away from yours.

11. Meal requests

If you’re vegan or gluten-free, making meal requests ahead of time can save the host some headaches. You can ask a few days in advance if a dish can be specially made for you.

If they’re not as willing or able to accommodate you, then you can just bring your own dish. When I was a bit pickier as a kid, my mom would always bring the meal I liked for me to eat.

12. Referee the conversations

Similar to the the discussions about government, any other conversation that starts heating up, try to cool it down. Don’t take anyone’s side, just try to say something that can be agreed on by everyone and change the topic.

You could bring up something funny to lighten the mood. If you have kids, you can tell them about something great they did recently.

13. Keep kids included in some conversations

Most kids don’t really look forward to these get-togethers. They just want to enjoy their break from school and relax.

Still, it’s important to show them the value of time with loved ones. You can try to keep your children from being too bored by mentioning something positive going on in their lives

Someone around the table might ask a question, and it’ll go from there. Once dinner is over, they can be free to watch TV or play outside with someone.

14. Limit conversation with those you don’t like

If there’s one person you absolutely can’t stand talking to, keep conversation to a minimum with them. Be polite and say hello of course.

You can ask how they are and then move it along. If they say something that feels like a backhanded compliment, resist the urge to respond in kind.

15. Don’t take things personally

Me and my partner both grew up with Caribbeans. Caribbeans tend to say whatever’s on their mind without thinking about how the other person takes it.

These experiences taught us not to really take things too personally. In life in general, as long as you know who you are, people can say whatever they want.

You don’t have to feel personally hurt by it. At the end of the day, to paraphrase one of my favorite wrestlers growing up, it really doesn’t matter what they have to say.

16. Get some fresh air

If you feel conversation is getting too intense or uncomfortable, take a walk outside. You can take a few moments to relax and then go back inside.

If you’re not in the safest neighborhood, you can go to the bathroom and freshen up. Find some area in or outside of the home you can just get away for a moment. Then, when you’re ready, you can get back around your family.

17. Plan your exit

You of course don’t want to leave too soon, or it’ll seem like you don’t really want to be there. Stay about 30 minutes to an hour after people finished eating if no one else has left.

Don’t give some fake excuse to go. Make some kind of plan for afterwards so you can give an honest reason for leaving.

You could plan to volunteer at a soup shelter, meet up with friends, or some other kind of plan. That way it won’t feel awkward when you’re trying to make your way out. It’ll also give you something to look forward to as you’re waiting for the time to pass.

18. Remember it’s only a few hours

Your time with your extended family will only be a few hours. Afterwards, you’ll be back to your life, and probably won’t see them again until Christmas. Just push through until it’s time to leave.

19. Try to enjoy your time

While we may not always get along with our loved ones, they’re always going to be a part of us. Do your best to enjoy your time with them when you get together. Create positive memories you’ll be happy to look back on one day.

20. Have your own get together

If it’s really hard for you to be around certain family members, you can always just host your own celebration. Invite the family members and friends you feel most comfortable with, and it’ll be easy for you to have a good time.

But if in the end someone’s already hosting a get together for the family, all of the previous tips can help you get through it. With planning and preparation, the time can move by smoothly and you can be happy that you decided to go.

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