Holiday Survival Guide

How to Navigate Thanksgiving Tension
Like a Champ

The keys to enjoying your family get-together without a blowup

How to Navigate Thanksgiving Tension Like a Champ

A scene from Home for the Holidays.

Honestly, I'm no more ready to face the extended family this Thanksgiving than I was last year. I don't think I've been in a social setting in the whole of 2018 where the news hasn't come up. Everyone collectively sighs and weighs in with our opinions and disappointments. Typically, we're all essentially on the same page. But that's not the case in a house full of people from different parts of the country. This should be a day of fun, food and familial inside jokes. Not about dodging trigger words like climate change, guns and fake news. But inevitably, someone will say something, sometime during this holiday weekend that will open the floodgate, unleashing a slew of eggshells on which you don't want to walk. And that's in addition to asking about your job and relationship (or lack thereof). But you can keep the peace (and your sanity) by keeping a few things in mind. Herewith, how to navigate Thanksgiving peacefully.


Talk Politics ... Without Being a Dick

This is about knowing your audience. Keep in mind that every person here today is more than their political views. This doesn't mean you have to agree with them or even understand their logic. But you should recognize that they have other life experiences that have informed their views. If your uncle has fought in a war, saved to send his kids to college and worked the same job for more than two decades, well you're probably not going to change his mind with a few key facts. But your cousin? Or your aunt who likes most of your Facebook posts? They might be open to a two-way discussion about our current state of politics. If you're both able to share some concerns and desires, you might be able to find common ground and do away with dangerous assumptions.

Watch the Drinking

You don't have to be completely sober. After all, a nice light buzz can work wonders to put you at ease in a tense situation. Just make sure you're keeping track of how much you're drinking, so as not to get too loose. It's less fun, but it's a whole lot better than drunkenly telling Grandma that you think she's a racist. Because you'll regret that, in the long run.

Make an “if-Then” Plan

Depending on who you're planning to see at this family function, you might be expecting to hear some aggravating topics come up. Triggers, you might say. Ones that you know you're better off not trying to argue. So before you show up, think about how you might respond in a calm way if such a topic is broached. You could remind yourself to take deep, slow breaths, or politely excuse yourself to help in the kitchen or just play on your phone in the bathroom if you need a quick break.


Remember the Good Times

These people are your family. Most of them have known you for your entire life. You can disagree (vehemently, even) and still connect on those good family memories. Maybe your older brother has become something of a climate change denier, but he's also the guy who got you through summer camp as a kid and bought you your first beer in college. Keep in mind the good stuff you share and focus on that.

Distractions are Key

When you feel tensions rising, a subtle "Hey, anyone want some coffee?" can stop a conversation from escalating. It's also smart to show up with a few handy distractions—after all, it's hard to escape the news, so if you don't try to focus on something else, those hot button issues will inevitably pop up. So instead, come prepared. Give out a compliment or two, "The house looks great," or pull out your phone, "You guys have to see this hilarious YouTube clip." And if you're a games family, bring a new board game with you that's sure to keep everyone's mind focused on winning and not on the news.

Three Board Games Worth Bringing

Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan

A clever and competitive game of strategy that's a more modern and addictive version of the old Risk game.

$44.49 at Target

Utter Nonsense, Naughty Edition

Utter Nonsense,
Naughty Edition

Players combine silly accents with mild cursing and innuendos to create ridiculously funny phrases.

$24.99 / $12.99 at Amazon



A card-and-board game, it's simple to learn and played in up to three teams. Games are quick but challenging.

$23.99 / $11.99 at Amazon

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