Happy Thanksgiving: Quick Advice on Surviving Difficult Relatives and Being Grateful

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!

Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday in the entire year. It is all about food, family, and gratitude. What’s not to love? There are no cards and no gifts…just eating, spending time with people you love/like, and gratitude. 

Growing up, I loved Thanksgiving because it was my family’s big holiday – family members from all over came to the family farm in Virginia. The air outside would be crisp, fires in the fireplaces, and the farmhouse would be full of relatives and friends and amazing smells. My immediate family would fly in a few days early so we could have extra time and help prepare the food. Then on Thanksgiving Day, everyone else would show up, bringing smiles and even more food. Before dinner, everyone would stand in a circle and share a moment of silence as a Quaker tradition and then proceed to fill our plates with the food. Eventually, the kids would start clearing plates and serving desserts and coffee, while my mom and her cousins would start washing dishes in the kitchen. At some point, we’d all gather outside and take a big family photo. Little groups of people would gather all over the farmhouse, then eventually the leftovers would come out for snacking and the football game was on TV.

The Little Family celebrating Thanksgiving

My memories of childhood Thanksgiving are nice and rosy with time and distance. And while I did love spending Thanksgiving with everyone, don’t think that it was all beer and skittles. As an introvert, Thanksgiving could be stressful because it also meant a lot of small talk with relatives I only saw once a year. I was and still am relatively awkward around people, and being around family does not change that. And, as with all families, there were some difficult relatives who were pushy, annoying, mean, snide, or [insert other undesirable quality here].

For those of you with difficult family members, good luck. While I don’t have too much experience dealing with difficult family members, I have spent a lot of time around people who hold very different opinions than mine. If you think you can have a civil conversation with someone, then, by all means, go for it. However, you probably won’t change anyone’s mind over a turkey leg and stuffing or pumpkin pie. In most instances, you’ll preserve your sanity by making vague noises that indicate you’re listening: “oh? Mmmm”. As soon as you can, think about changing the subject and maybe take a tip from this post. If you have the mental and emotional energy to correct someone or try to explain to them why something is just not right, then go for it! If you don’t, then that’s completely okay too. It’s completely fine to do what you need to do to have as happy a Thanksgiving as possible.

Even if you aren’t celebrating Thanksgiving today, take a moment and think about your life. What are you grateful for today? If life is going well for you today, you might be grateful for how well everything is going. If you’ve had one of those days/weeks/months, try to find the silver lining. Maybe you can be grateful for some other things that are often overlooked. For example, you could be grateful that you have a job, or that you have both arms and legs and all your fingers and toes, or that the sun is shining, or maybe for the internet connection that lets you read a great blog (cough cough *this one* cough cough). I know I’m grateful for all of you readers, and that Thanksgiving doesn’t involve cards or gifts!

Today, my husband and I are with my sister-in-law’s family, being grateful for them (especially my nieces!) and the fact that we can be with family. Plus, my sister-in-law is an AWESOME cook. Now, go enjoy your day and have a very happy Thanksgiving! If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today, enjoy the day and the good food! And no matter what, whether you’re with family, friends, or by yourself, take a moment to give thanks for some of the wonderful things in your life.

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