Strategies for Thanksgiving Success

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 206 · Duration: 00:13:43

Strategies for Thanksgiving Success

Here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving. There’s plenty to look forward to and plenty to prepare for - no not the food, the people.  We’ll talk about this and a whole lot more on this week’s podcast, Strategies for Thanksgiving Success.

I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving Eve listeners and I hope your holiday tomorrow is terrific.  This week I’d like to offer some of the strategies I’ve found most helpful to families on this family and friends-oriented holiday.

Now to Strategies for Thanksgiving Success and let’s start with this:


First and foremost, decide to enjoy yourself. Click To Tweet Whether you’re traveling and showing up with your family as guests or are hosting, it can be stressful, particularly with the business of managing kids, sometimes known as “herding cats”.  

So, decide what you want out of the day, don’t let yourself fall into the trap of just managing things.  Who do I want to connect with?  How do I want to connect?  Is there an activity I for sure want to do?  Focus on those things so that despite everything else that may be taking place, you got something important just for you, that will make this day rewarding.

If you are hosting, and have a gazillion things to do, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s best to be specific and assign tasks to partners, kids, and guests. If you need quiet and space to concentrate, let people know that, shoo them away with love, and have it your way. Don’t suffer through and resent people for not realizing your needs. 


If you are hosting or if you are bringing a dish to another host, get the kids involved in the food preparation.

Kids have a habit of coming to the table, eating, and taking all the food prep for granted.  Put them in charge of making a dish. You can help, (as little as possible) but let it be their creation. It builds pride and investment in the whole meal; actually, the whole day.

Now to the Role of the kids.  

  1. Set up expectations with your child, teenager, or young adult in advance.  
  2. Will they be with other kids?  What is their role, older kids entertaining younger ones? Have them plan activities to do with others or depending on circumstances, with themselves. Please consider activities that are NOT Electronic:  Board games that are on a real board, cards, arts and crafts, or an activity such as the beanbag lawn game. 
  3. Identify ways they can add value to the day such as helping out with table setting, serving, cleaning up, house cleaning in advance, and helping their grandparents or other guests
  4.  Make sure they know what they are going to be doing in advance.  
  5. Be sure that the limits around devices are clear and manageable.  Don’t expect them not to use their phones while in possession of their phones.  Otherwise, you will spend the day saying, “I thought I told you to put your phone away.”  And you will be hearing back, “I was just texting my friends that I can’t text now.” Or “I was looking something up that Grandma asked about.”

Here’s another important topic:

Very Challenging Family Members

I’ve had several discussions with clients about dealing with difficult relatives.  Often, we can keep our distance from a relative who brings problem behaviors and makes being in a relationship onerous. Being critical, substance abuse, not arriving at arranged times, insisting on talking politics, (and they’re on the “other side”) etc.  But on a holiday, it feels wrong to exclude them.  Have a plan for how to manage the problem behaviors. 

  1. If they chronically hold up the dinner by being late, simply follow through and start at the scheduled time. Then if and when they arrive, they can join wherever the group is at.  
  2. If alcohol is a problem for a relative, make sure there is very little of it available and consumed at your event, or better yet, simply don’t have alcohol at all. 
  3. If chronic criticism is expected, have a plan to not give it power.  Here are some ways to do that:
         a. Set limits with it in real time. Such as, “I know you have good advice to share, but today, let’s only give thanks and save advice for another time.”
         b. Talk with them in advance and ask them to avoid it such as, “We’re working with the kids on their manners. It’s best if today, they feel supported and connected with the family and not criticized. If limits need to be set, I’ll take care of that.”
         c. Discuss the problem with the likely target of criticism and help them get a strategy to deal with it and not take it personally.  “Good point Grandpa.” “I’ll remember Uncle Paul.”
  4. If they want to talk about politics or religion and you know that’s a trap for an argument, perhaps something like, “I know you have a strong point of view that you’re passionate about. Let’s save that discussion for another time.”  (Never would be a good choice, but we’ll leave that part out.)  
  5. If someone is likely to dominate the conversation, have some things to share, topics to discuss, or ask others about in advance so you don’t freeze up and feel helpless. 

Well, there you have it.  Take care of you first and foremost.  Involve the kids and make them relevant to the day.  And finally, anticipate problem social behaviors, and head them off at the pass.  Most of all,

Thanksgiving needs to be a day of connection with family and close friends, too much good, delicious food, and a giant helping of gratitude.Click To Tweet Let’s absolutely not forget about the gratitude part.  Let’s be thankful for even our annoying family members, our bounty, as well as the many opportunities and challenges ahead.  What are you most grateful for on this Thanksgiving?

I’d like you to know that on the top of my gratitude list is you. Click To Tweet

Thanks for tuning in listeners and before we close, let’s do this together, take a slow deep breath, hold and then exhale very slowly, ready?  Inhale through your nose, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, good, now hold, 1,2,3,4,5 and exhale very slowly 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.  One more time,  inhale, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, good now hold, 1,2,3,4,5, and now exhale and send your stress away.  Are you remembering to slow down and breathe and do other easy positive things for yourself? They’re important because as I’ve said many times and I’ll say it again, this parenting business ain’t easy so self-care is essential; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it.  Bye for now.

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