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How to survive Thanksgiving with your family

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How to survive Thanksgiving with your family

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Ah, Thanksgiving. A break from school, an opportunity to eat incredibly tasty food in very large portions, and a time to relax with family. Well, the last one might not be so true, especially if your Thanksgiving involves awkward or heated conversations between family members that leave you crying into your stuffing. But don’t worry, The Seahawk is here to provide some tips to save your 2018 Thanksgiving and keep the drama of the current cultural climate from ruining your meal.

 

Avoid politics. And every other topic that you know will lead to a reenactment of the 2016 presidential debate in your family’s dining room. 

This seems obvious, right? While it’s easier said than done, I promise you there are other things in the world to talk about. The purpose of Thanksgiving is to bring families together, so if your family wants to have a peaceful holiday, remind them that avoiding touchy subjects of any kind is the best route to achieve that.

In case you think avoiding politics means you’ll have to suffer through ten stories about your Uncle Bobby’s health problems, here are some topics to discuss when you aren’t stuffing your face with mashed potatoes.

  • Ask about someone’s life but go beyond what new thing just happened in their job. Ask them about their aspirations, goals, plans, accomplishments, bucket lists, etc. 
  • Ask your older family members how Thanksgiving was celebrated when they were young. 
  • Ask family members to share funny or memorable stories from their past that involve other family members (What’s the most embarrassing thing they’ve done? What was it like to be the parent of a family member?)
  • What is everyone obsessed with right now – movies, tv shows, music, etc.? 
  • Talk about how good the food is! Or just keep stuffing your face with it until it’s time to go. 

 

If you do start talking politics and really don’t want to be, try to find common ground to end the conversation or agree to disagree. 

For many families, any conversation can spiral into a political blowout without anyone knowing how the conversation ended up there. If it’s impossible for a conversation involving politics not to end in a screaming match and someone being disowned, try to politely steer the conversation away from politics at the first touchy comment. If that doesn’t work and you find yourself sucked into an argument, try to listen (I know it’s hard). Hearing someone out on their beliefs and encouraging others to try to understand where they’re coming from can be beneficial for stalling a full-blown argument.

That doesn’t mean you have to tolerate hateful statements or not stand up for your beliefs, but clearly state what you believe and that your differences shouldn’t ruin Thanksgiving. Sometimes you have to realize that arguing with someone is futile because nothing is going to change their beliefs. In that case, tell them you should agree to disagree, at least for the sake of Thanksgiving. 

 

If you are talking politics and see no way around it, try to listen and remain calm while encouraging your family members to do the same. 

If talking politics is your thing or you don’t want to go through another year of holding your tongue when your grandpa makes an inappropriate comment, speak up. But remember to have a conversation instead of a debate when it comes to this. Listen and keep civil when discussing your differences and try to finish the conversation having learned something about your family member or grasped a better understanding of their beliefs. Instead of arguing over what everyone in the world is doing, try to distract from the focus on divided political parties. Relate the problems to people in your family so that someone can be more empathetic and be given a more personal view or a different perspective on the topic.

Also, don’t let one hot-button issue lead to a discussion of all the world’s problem. That’s exhausting for everyone, so say your piece and try to move on. If people wanted to hear two people argue with each other over every single issue in the world, they would just turn on the news. 

 

Invite someone outside of your family to act as a buffer or enlist some of your other relatives in keeping the peace. 

If your family is the type to put on their best behavior for people outside of the family, invite a friend to come with you to Thanksgiving to keep things civil. There are plenty of people who don’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving or don’t typically celebrate for a variety of reasons, so inviting someone to your Thanksgiving could benefit someone else as well as your cause.

However, if your family gets rowdy no matter who is around, this might not be the best idea. In that case, talk to some of your family members that agree with your beliefs or want to keep the peace as well so you can have multiple people tackling family drama at the dinner table. Playing peacemaker is easier to do when you have others that have the same goal in mind and can help control the conversation. 

 

Provide an escape or distraction. 

If you’ve run out of things to talk about or have just extinguished a fight between relatives and need something to fix some family relationships, try a game. It seems dumb and corny but finding a game to play with each other is a good idea to lighten the mood and keep everyone relatively happy. Pull out your favorite board or card games (Cards Against Humanity probably isn’t a good idea unless you want to give your Aunt Janice a heart attack), unless your family is super competitive, in which case, I don’t know, sit around and trace your hand to make a turkey?

Here are some game ideas that require no boards or little materials:

Mafia Game: https://icebreakerideas.com/mafia-game/ 

3 Interesting Takes on Classic Party Games: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/family-games_b_2338027 

If your family isn’t really into games (there’s always those people who are too cool for charades), try some other activities. If your family is really into football, watch football. If someone has some talents, ask them to show them off. Make your strange uncle do karaoke, have a pie eating contest, have a “Just Dance” battle, or watch a family favorite movie.

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