Holiday Survival Guide
How to Navigate Thanksgiving
Tension Like a Champ
The keys to enjoying your family get-together without a blowup
Is it me, or are gatherings with extended family getting tricky? Go ahead and blame social media. It can feed our own echo chambers while also allowing us to broadcast opinions we all think everyone in our orbit agrees with, but that's always the case. Especially for those family and friends who live in different parts of the country, who we only see now and then. Thanksgiving should be a day of fun, food and familial inside jokes. Not about dodging trigger words like climate change, guns and abortion. 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.
How to Avoid
a Family Blowup
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 theGood 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.
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.
The Other Sourceof Stress?
According to a recent NBC News poll, the most stressful part of the holiday is all of the cleaning, with cooking taking second place. If you’re hosting, clinical psychologist Dr. Shannon Curry recommends getting ahead of the mess and delegating as many tasks as you can in advance. Give people jobs to get things off your plate. And if you’re a guest, offer up your help, but don’t ask “if” there’s anything you could do. Offer up things: Take out the trash, pour drinks or help dry dishes. A few little tasks and just the acknowledgment of how hard your host is working goes a long way.