Conversation with Your BFF
Family Time at Thanksgiving- Does Your Family put the ‘Fun’ in Dysfunctional?
BY REBECCA COOPER
For some families, Thanksgiving is another excuse to get together to eat good food and to have a good time. That’s never been the case with me and the families I have been a part of in my lifetime. If you have a challenging family, it’s only human to be a bit jealous to see your friends’ families living the holiday dream on social media, like a Norman Rockwell painting, where you’re just trying to live through the day. So if your family puts the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional, can you have a good Thanksgiving without needing bail at the end of the day? I’m so glad you asked!
A Much Needed Survival Guide
Making it through Thanksgiving with a less than ideal family begins with a bit of planning and social engineering so that you can take control of the situation.
First, examine the ‘givens’ of your family. For example, it’s a given that your sister-in-law who can’t cook always gets jealous when everyone eats your side dish and leaves her mac and cheese to get dusty, and your grandmother who gives an ‘organ recital’ on every part of her body from her liver to her ingrown toenail is probably going to over share like always, and your uncle is going to bring his flask and take a nip thinking that no one knows that he may have a drinking problem. It happens every year, so don’t think things will change this year. However, you can prepare yourself by doing a few things.
Find a Partner in Crime
Chances are you’re not the only one who is irked by your family’s dysfunctional routines. Figure out who you can call on to spend your time with on the holiday. Agree on doing a tag team when conversations get too much and just adjourn yourselves to another room. No one said you have to sit through a discussion on politics or the black sheep of the family and what they recently did.
Avoid Adult Beverages
Rarely do people, especially family, ever act better with a few stiff ones under their belt. Alcohol allows for any inhibitions to come out, and subjects that may normally be off-limits seem to be good topics. Stick with tea, soft drinks, and water to keep everyone on their best behavior.
Don’t Take the Bait
Is there a relative who always gets a rise out of you? Decide ahead of time that it takes two to tango and don’t engage with them. Either change the subject or excuse yourself to another room…do what’s best for your sanity.
Don’t Make a Day of It
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, consider serving dinner later, like 6 pm and ask people to arrive late, around 4 pm. Then, at most, you only have to get through 5-6 hours rather than an entire day of continual grazing. Also, have to-go boxes ready to load if anyone wants more to eat later. If you’re a guest, justify showing up a bit late by volunteering to deliver meals to the elderly or working at the local homeless shelter. No one can make a negative comment about when you arrive if you’re helping others, right?
Invite a ‘Buffer’
Most people’s manners improve when outsiders enter the scene. If you can count on your family to put their best feet forward for company, then invite some friends. If not, don’t make anyone else suffer with you. Hard to believe, but some people would actually love to have somewhere to go for the holiday even if there are a few nuts from the family tree present. You might want to warn your friends ahead of time just so they aren’t too surprised.
Make a Seating Chart
Put family members who rub each other the wrong way at opposite ends of the table, or set up satellite tables in other areas of the house and get those who tend to start arguments in other rooms. Nothing like having a wall or two between troublemakers!
No matter how anxious you are about spending time with your family this Thanksgiving, remember at some point in the day to be thankful for them. As some of them might already be reminding you, they won’t always be around…when that happens, you can strive to be the annoying relative that the rest of the family complains about!