In nine days, families across the country will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. Many households will be filled with revelry and warm feelings. Others will be so miserable and contentious that members count the moments until they can leave.
What’s the secret to a happy household? Consider these 10 factors:
1. Acceptance of individual differences. Happy clans welcome all members, regardless of their religion, life choices or monetary success. Each is met at the door with open arms and incorporated seamlessly into the family fold.
2. Caring. Family members are genuinely concerned about each others’ well-being. They earnestly inquire about recent life changes or concerns. Then they listen to updates and offer appropriate support, condolences or congratulations.
3. Commitment to the success of the group. Members place the family front and center in their lives. They not only want Thanksgiving Day to be flawless, but they also want the family unit to thrive. They arrive ready to pitch in wherever they’re needed.
4. Flexibility. Families are in a constant state of flux. Babies are born. Couples marry and divorce. Parents age. Happy clans are able to adapt to the everchanging needs of the group without complaining or passing judgment.
5. Agreeable conversations. Family members discuss neutral, upbeat topics when they’re together. They avoid potentially divisive subjects, such as politics, gun control or marriage equality. They make sure everyone gets a chance to talk.
6. Emotional safety. Members feel safe when they gather. They never worry about being the target of family bullying. They trust that past transgressions or failures are locked away in the psychological closet. Should the conversation veer in a possibly painful direction, someone is able to adroitly step in and change the subject.
7. Limited alcohol. Happy clans successfully manage the intake of alcohol. The appropriate amount of liquor varies greatly from household to household. In some families, fine wines assume a starring role and are the focus of much discussion and enjoyment. In other homes, intoxication leads to inappropriate comments and actions that send the event into a nosedive. If alcohol is of any concern, it’s best to strictly monitor its availability or forgo it altogether.
8. Common interests. Members seek out similarities. They quickly identify topics and activities that draw them together, then have fun engaging in what they mutually love. The list of shared interests is endless: music, foreign films, travel, recent pregnancies, sports, even prize-winning tomatoes. Hosts can facilitate the process by providing games and crafts for everyone to enjoy.
9. Emotional stability. Members of happy clans keep their cool. They don’t overreact to petty annoyances. Potential irritants roll off their backs. They’re quick to make up after disagreements. Of course, not everyone in the family can be described as congenial. There will always be a psychological mix. Still, in happy clans, pacifists outnumber hotheads and keep outbursts in check.
10. Appreciation. People in happy households are eternally grateful for their families. They’re quick to say “thank you” and equally quick to dish out compliments. They know that every family member is precious and that loved ones can be taken without warning. They make every day an opportunity to say “I love you” to those they hold most dear.