Lessons from Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving inspires us to express our gratitude for all we have been given. And the long weekend includes many additional descriptions – delicious, full, hectic, loving, stressful, joyful, overwhelming, warm, meaningful, disappointing, exhausting. How was yours? Mine had some of all of these and was full of friends and family – children, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, a great-grandson, and cousins. Because our children and three grandsons were visiting from out of town, we wanted to take advantage of their trip and squeeze in every possible minute of fun with them. So now we’re recuperating and reminiscing, looking over all of the pictures we took. And trying to figure out what to do with all the leftovers!

Wonderful though they are, holidays can be a tense time for families. With all of the December celebrations coming up, this is a good time to make plans for reducing the pressure you put on yourself. Instead of trying to design the perfect family get-together, here are some tips to put into play now:

Reduce your stress by lowering your expectations. Recognize that not everything is going to turn out as you planned. Rather than setting your standards so high, be more realistic and allow for some flexibility. Then when your bother forgets to bring the special after-dinner treats he promised, remind yourself that you don’t really need them.

Ask for help – early and often. You may appreciate being complimented on all your cooking as you entertain your guests, but is it really worth the fatigue that overwhelms you afterwards? You know who enjoys pitching in to help so let them know what you need. And cousin Sarah may share her recipe for a sweet potato casserole that you can use another time. 

Focus on what you have rather than what you are missing. When you think about all you are grateful for, it makes it easier to let go of your disappointments about what you don’t have. You may wish that you could spend more time with your grandkids, but relish the time you do have together.

Anticipate dysfunctional behavior and do what you can to contain it. If you think the strain of including your son-in-law’s separated parents in your holiday festivities will push the tension level over the top, don’t include them this year. Talk with other family members ahead of time to diffuse issues that might come up.

And be sure to stop by on Thursday when Ruth Nemzoff joins us to chat about her new book, Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family. An expert on family dynamics, Ruth will share some of her strategies for improving relationships with new family members. Whether you’re a mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, or out-law, you’ll gain a new perspectives and learn from Ruth’s insightful tips.

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