The large family gathering over Thanksgiving is an American tradition that can be a fun, cozy and relaxing day to see relatives and friends and appreciate all we have. However, it can also be a day of dread for those who know they are going to be forced together with people that they have underlying grievances with. It might be differing political views, an outstanding debt or just the way you are choosing to live your life that turns the conversation from the pleasantries of recent good movie releases, to a huge argument about personal issues. If you are hosting a large event and know that there are potential angry flair-ups just waiting to happen, there are a couple things you can do to help avoid the situation.
1. Lay the groundwork ahead of time. When you talk to guests about what they can bring, explain that you would like to have a nice day and would appreciate if they don’t bring up controversial issues. Explain that you are putting a lot of work into this and you want to be able to enjoy the day. It’s just not the time or place to bring up disagreements.
2. If someone says something that provokes your anger during the day, count to twenty or remove yourself from the scene and take a quick walk around the block before responding. This will give you time to simmer down and come up with something level headed to say or even better, let the moment pass for now.
3. If a topic comes up during the meal that you know is potentially explosive, speak up and ask your guests to shelve it for another time and place, not at your Thanksgiving table. Redirect the conversation to upcoming vacation plans, recent achievements or positive health news.
4. Laughter is the best medicine. If someone brings up a topic that completely annoys you or is critical of you, instead of getting mad, turn it into a joke. Let your Aunt Bertha explain how global warming is a myth created by the Democrats and laugh about it instead of turning it into a confrontation.
5. Try to limit the amount of alcohol served. If you know that there’s one cousin that drinks too much scotch every year and says inappropriate things, maybe serve some wine with dinner and call it a day. If he gives you a hard time, explain that you don’t want a repeat of last year and leave it at that. He’ll either have to go along with the boundaries you’ve set in your home, or leave.
6. Have games planned to entertain guests while you are cooking or for after the meal. When your guests get bored from spending the day inside, tension can arise. Making board games, video games, a football game on TV or appropriate family friendly movies available gives everyone something else to focus on.
7. Hand out jobs to those milling around to put them to work. When people get bored, they can start to cause trouble. Give someone the job of basting the turkey, someone to set the table, and another to be in charge of filling water glasses. Provide fun paper and colored pens for the kids to make up cute place cards or have them write notes about what they are thankful for to share with the group during dinner.