We know Thanksgiving is about gratitude and families. But we also know it can be stressful. Especially if you have hordes descending on your house in a few days, you may need an emotional battle plan right about now.
To make sure your day has more merriment than meltdowns, follow these tips:
Get your priorities straight. The purpose of Thanksgiving is to get together and have fun. Everything else is gravy. If you don’t have enough matching silverware to feed the masses, don’t sweat it. The focus is on hugs and positive energy.
Do what you enjoy. Decide what you like about Thanksgiving, then make it happen. Love decorating? Go all out. Prefer making your own pumpkin pies? Revel in the process. It’s your event, so you have control.
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Accept all help. Don’t be a hero. This is a time for everyone to pitch in. When Aunt Shirley offers to bring her favorite Jell-o salad, say “Of course!” With so many mouths and varied taste buds, there’s plenty of room for each culinary delight.
Make assignments. Decide which course or two you’ll tackle then tell others what you need. The advantage of having family arriving by busloads is that you’ll have more folks to share the load. Assign according to abilities and diets. Your vegetarian nephew can bring his favorite chickpea casserole. A bachelor brother can show up with a bottle of wine.
Delegate guest-related responsibilities. Give family members specific roles. Your teenage daughter might serve as greeter. Grade school kids can rotate time chatting with Grandma. Friends can light the candles, fill water glasses or entertain rambunctious toddlers.
Plan the seating. Don’t let guests go rogue. Decide ahead of time how the energy of the meal will flow. The hosts go at the ends of the table. Energetic types are perfect in the center where they’ll be all too eager to kick things off. Older or hard-of-hearing guests should be near the middle, too; that way they’ll be part of the action. Pair easygoing personalities with cantankerous ones. Shy people do best near the hostess. During dessert, the host and hostess might swap seats so everyone can intermingle.
Limit alcohol. While it’s fun to toast family togetherness, it’s easy for things to go awry. Too many cocktails may lead to inappropriate comments, hurt feelings and overzealous political statements. Avert disasters before they happen by slowing the flow early on.
Avoid controversial or painful family topics. Thanksgiving is not the time to discuss the Affordable Care Act. Nor is it appropriate to ask your son-in-law whether he’s found a job. Keep conversations upbeat, safe and inclusive. If they veer toward dangerous territory, quickly redirect them out of harm’s way.
Be flexible. There’s so much involved in planning Thanksgiving. It requires adaptations at every turn. “My roommate will be with me for the weekend. Is it OK if she comes, too?” “My husband’s blood pressure is sky high. I’ll be bringing his low-salt options.” Be as accommodating as possible so guests’ needs are met.
Turn off the television during the meal. Some folks may want to watch football. It’s fine to have the game on in another room. But when it’s time to sit down, all screens go blank. You’ll want all attention on family and food.
No cell phones allowed. It’s insulting to text or to check your email while friends and loved ones are around. Exceptions can be made in a few extenuating circumstances: Grandpa’s in the hospital or a loved one is serving overseas. Then Skype or texting keeps them in the loop and makes them feel part of the day.
Thank everyone who participated. Many hands contribute to a successful Thanksgiving. Whether they arrive with a platter of candied yams or hand-dry crystal after dessert, they’re an integral part of the team. Dispense hugs at every opportunity. Say “thank you” often and mean it. Remember, gratitude is the focus of the gathering. Make sure that emotion is foremost in your heart.