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How to Avoid a Family Disaster at Thanksgiving

Few times during the year are more stressful than the holidays

Does your family include a few alcoholics and loudmouths? Are family members as divided as the USA itself into blue and red states so that certain discussions become shouting matches? Are you combining sets of in-laws of different religions and backgrounds with different ideas about how Thanksgiving dinner should be cooked, served and eaten? Do you have vegetarians who hate meals that center around dead animals? Does the guest list include adult women who compete in the areas of cooking, cleaning, decorating, and children’s achievements? Are ex-spouses trying to share Thanksgiving for the sake of their children? Normal families deal with these issues every year at Thanksgiving.

Here are tips from family therapists and other experts for your normal family to get through the day in peace:

Eat dinner in a public place. People tend to be on their best behavior in public and have the ability to depart whenever they feel it is best.

Don’t be in competition with your family. Do not try to out-do what your sister may have, and do not try to cook everything the way Grandma did. Do not get overtired trying to get one over on your family members.

Plan activities after the meal. Family members tend to get bored after dinner and tensions flare. Plan an outing or a walk after dinner.

Place cards at the table. Seat people at your dinner table in a strategic way. This way you can avoid uncomfortable dinner conversation.

Have a plan in case the conversation gets heated. It might help to have a few humorous comebacks in your back pocket in case someone gets nasty at the Thanksgiving Dinner table. Or plan chores for individuals to get them away from the table.

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