How to Survive The Family Thanksgiving Holiday: Guidelines for a Stress-free Holiday Visit

There is a reason we look forward to Thanksgiving. It is the opportunity to renew bonds with family and friends and eat some great food. At the same time, the expectations for the Thanksgiving holiday to be perfect can put pressure and stress on both the family hosting the holiday and for those visiting.

With some forethought, preparation and practice, you will be able to handle and/or avoid disagreeable situations and genuinely enjoy the holiday.

Ask How Long The Event Is, When It is Expected To Begin, When It Is Expected To End

Ask how long the day ‘s events are planned for. If you need to return home by a certain time, let your host/ family know this in advance. If you are invited to more than one event in one day, make sure your host(s)/family know this as well, so they aren’t offended when you announce you are leaving for your other commitment(s).

If you are visiting long distance and you will be staying for more than one day, make sure you have transportation to and from your destination and have access to leave briefly if you need to. If you have an exercise routine, i.e., you jog before breakfast, bring your equipment and stick to it. Keeping to your exercise routine, even if you have to modify it, will help keep you empowered.

Let your family know clearly in advance how long you will be staying for and when you will be leaving. Simply state the dates of when you will arriving and departing and leave it at that.

Ask if there are Special Activities Planned

Ask in advance if there are special activities planned so you know what to expect and can prepare accordingly. For example, if there is a wine tasting or other event that revolves around alcohol planned and you do not drink, politely ask for a non-alcoholic beverage, like water, juice, seltzer, or soda. When pressed for why you are not drinking, politely say, “It’s not for me, thanks, but I am glad you are enjoying yourself.” Make sure you can drive your own car to the event and back.

Let Your Hosts Know You Have Special Dietary Needs

It is important to let your host/family know if you have special dietary needs, especiallyif you are allergic to certain foods. The last thing anyone wants to do on Thanksgiving is to spend it in the emergency room!

If it is a matter of certain tastes that you have, or you are watching your weight and need to have certain low calorie or low-fat dishes, offer to bring a few dishes to share and/or offer to buy and cook foods that you would like to eat as a courtesy and to alleviate your host’s burden. Thanksgiving is a time for plenty anyway and there might be someone else interested in trying something different.

When Someone Says or Does Something Offensive

The general rule of thumb for incident-free conversation is not to discuss opinions on religion, sex, money and unless you are the Kennedys, politics. If you know what topics push your family’s “buttons”, avoid them.

If someone asks you questions of an intrusive nature, simply say , “(Name of person), I’d like to just relax and not talk about (blank), if you don’t mind. Have you read any good books or seen any good movies lately?”

If someone says or does something that seriously offends you, let them know it. Take them aside privately and say “(Name of person), I was offended by what you said/did, or “What you said/did hurt me, please don’t do it again”, or “(Name of person), I really don’t appreciate you doing that, especially on this holiday occasion.”

Voicing the truth in a situation like that (a technique called “leveling”) will most likely stop the offender in his/her tracks. If the behavior persists, or if the person has consumed too much alcohol to talk reasonably, simply excuse yourself and walk away.

In Closing

If you need to practice talking assertively and tactfully, engage the help of a friend who can “role-play” with you. Before you know it, you will be able to respond to difficult situations with ease and confidence.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent”.

Be yourself, stay in the present, be honest and tactful. Comport yourself as you would like to have guests behave in your home.

Finally, if you truly do not want to visit for the holidays, you can create your own traditional Thanksgiving by inviting friends who may be in the same boat as you and/or a neighbor or two who is alone for the holidays. Plan a separate visit with your immediate family at another time that won’t be so emotionally charged.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen and help others not as fortunate as you.

Peace and Blessings To You And Yours This Holiday Season.

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