How to Survive Thanksgiving With Your Family

Ah, the holidays. A time of peace and relaxation surrounded by your closest and most important loved ones. Yeah right. Thanksgiving is the time for your sister to debut her new boyfriend (he’s a doctor), your cousin to show off that he’s lost twenty pounds, and your heinous uncle’s day to get a little mulled-wine happy and admit to things in his past that no one needed to know. How will you make it through? Follow these tips and you’ll be home free (well not really free, as you had to buy your cousin that tank of gas).

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1.  Carve not only the turkey, but your personal space.

You may think to yourself that you need space, but people rarely are open and honest with their family members about needing it. Yet, people generally will respect you when you say, “I really need a little personal time for a few minutes. I’ll come out and join you in a bit.” Revel in the solace of your childhood bedroom and reading your favorite middle school books for a few minutes. Go for a run or walk and soak up the solace. Is your family not respecting your boundaries even if you ask perfectly clearly? Tell them you have to send a few emails for work and need some quiet for an hour. People tend to be more understanding when it is work-related, rather than personal.


2. Refuse to do it alone.

Most people have a perfect vision of their holiday: After cooking the green beans, mash potatoes, turkey and cranberry sauce (all from scratch and organic, of course) your family would see the beautiful table you set with brand new decorations, smell the amazing bouquets that you handpicked from your garden, and appreciate all of your time and effort. What will really happen is that you’ll be miserably trying to scrape together all the dishes and wishing to God that someone had offered to help. Even if Thanksgiving is at your home, make it a team meal. You can prepare the turkey and gravy, but ask your relatives to make the sides and dessert. Let them know that you simply cannot do it all, and as everyone will be eating it, everyone should participate. After all, didn’t the pilgrims and Native Americans share foods from both their cultures on that first Thanksgiving?

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3. Distract, distract, distract.

Feel like your Mom is about to ask you about that nice Billy boy you dated in junior high? Is he still available? You can sense it coming, so why not stop it with a pre-approved topic, like the new book you’re reading. Your Mom will have heard all of the good hype about Gone Girl and will love to hear your thoughts when you recommend it. Your grandfather wants to know your feelings on recent politics? Sense the impending doom and ask him to tell one of his war stories. When he hits the part about “those damn Commies”, you can sneak out of the room. You have the whole story memorized anyways.


4. Have a car.

Cars are stressful. Families are crazy. Everyone will have errands they need to run and things to pick up, so make sure, even if you are visiting Ohio all the way from California, that you have an accessible car to get out of the house. A rental car is simple enough to arrange at the airport, and then you won’t have to wait for your definitely-on-something nephew to pick you up from the airport on the way back from ‘oboe practice.’ Safety first, people.


5. Make firm plans.

Aunt Gladice really wants your opinion at the doctor’s tomorrow when she goes to have her warts removed. “Aunt Gladice, I wish I could but I already made plans to meet cousin Cheryl for Black Friday. So sorry to be missing your wart removal.” Having backups and cover stories prevents you from getting sucked into anything too awful. Schedule exercise in for peace of mind and a convenient story. Gee, you’d love to take your niece to get her ears pierced, but since you’re training for a half marathon in March and you haven’t run all weekend, you need to squeeze it in when you can.

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And if worse comes to worse, watch some of the classic Friends Thanksgiving episodes. Their awful Thanksgivings (Monica being forced to make 6 kinds of mashed potatoes, Chandler’s toe getting sliced off, and them all being locked out of the apartment with the oven and burners on) will make yours feel much better by comparison. Happy holidays!



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