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Surviving Thanksgiving Holidays With Family: A Stress Free Thanksgiving With Relatives

Published by Will Oberle

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While there’s nothing more enjoyable than a big family Thanksgiving when things go smoothly, there’s nothing worse than a family Thanksgiving punctuated by arguments, hurt feelings, long term grievances and everyone feeling that they’re doing more work than everyone else. Want to keep this a stress free family Thanksgiving? Here’s how.

Going Out of Town for Thanksgiving

One problem with big family gatherings of out of town relatives is that people need a place to stay. If Grandma has an 18 room Victorian, this is no problem, but if grandma (more likely) lives in a condo, retirement community, or little house with one bathroom, housing twenty out of town family members is a problem.

If there are lots of people coming from out of town, having everyone stay in a nearby hotel can be fun; there may be an indoor pool or other recreation there to take some of the war and tear off grandma’s place. If there are just a few out of towners, they may be able to be parceled out among the in town relatives, unless they prefer to stay in a hotel.

Choosing Which Relatives Stay With Grandma Over Thanksgiving

What if everyone wants to stay at the only available in-town residence, either for financial reasons, or convenience, or because they think they’re mom’s favorite? There are ways to make the decision without bloodshed!

Use common sense. Cousin Eddie’s family obviously can’t stay in Grandma’s two-bedroom condo, because they have 12 children, all over 7 feet tall. Neither can people who have innumerable demands related to the condo temperature and their absolute need for one hundred pillows and down comforters, unless their demands and Grandma’s available equipment meshes.

Consider instituting a lottery system. All things being equal, put people’s name in a hat and draw out the winner. Then have the people who stay at Grandma’s contribute to the hotel bills of those who can’t. The only trouble with this option is that everyone might choose to stay in a hotel if part of their costs are paid, and Grandma will be insulted.

Assigning Thanksgiving Chores to family

Assigning Thanksgiving chores can be a Thanksgiving headache. The “We’ll all come over and just get it all done together” approach works for the congenial family, but if the guys head for the TV to watch the ballgame, and the moms with little kids are all tied up watching them, and the sisters who haven’t spoken for a year just made up over a bottle of wine, who’s left to do all the work? That’s right, Grandma. Assigning chores is fairer and makes slackers easier to spot. Just for a start, people need to be assigned to:

  • Set the table
  • Make the dressing
  • Stuff the turkey
  • Peel the potatoes
  • Carve the turkey
  • Find enough spare chairs and arrange them so no one has to sit on a corner

Clean up can be broken down into removing dishes and putting away leftovers, loading the dishwasher, and hand washing delicate china. (This last task should be assigned only to people guaranteed to stay sober through the end of the meal.)

Alcohol, Thanksgiving and Family

People have been murdered by relatives over alcohol fueled arguments on major holidays. It’s impossible to keep everyone from drinking too much, and also impossible to keep some hotheads from going out of control.

Be aware of the potential (every family knows who their hotheads are), stick to offering only wine and beer if possible, and try and stop disagreements before they escalate by taking the perpetrators to different areas of the house to cool down. If playing games always ends in arguments, don’t play them. If football rivalries always get out of hand, don’t—well, maybe not. Make a general announcement ahead of time that if things get out of hand, the TV goes off.

Thanksgiving With Family Can be Wonderful

Surviving Thanksgiving with relatives can be fun. Make sure yours is with advance planning and a determination to have fun without frustration this year.

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