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Navigating family gatherings at Thanksgiving

The holidays are a time of joy and gathering, but unfortunately, they also tend to be a time for turbulence and chaos.

TEXAS, USA — Most families are spending Thanksgiving together for the first time in two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Navigating the plethora of conversations, personalities and beliefs can be difficult but it is possible with the right preparation.

To help make your holiday gatherings joyful and void of conflict this season, family relationship expert and PhD in clinical psychology, Dr. Wayne Pernell. shared tips on some things to prepare for before sitting at the table for Thanksgiving.

“Most people do this thing where they play out the worst possible situation in their heads and prepare for what a family member might say. My suggestion is change your way of thinking and don’t let that possibly terrible situation happen,” Pernell said. 

Last year, many families were kept distanced by the pandemic. With vaccinations, decreasing infection rates and reduced lockdown rules, many families are eager to gather once more this holiday season. While the excitement may be brewing, cause for conflict may be bubbling its way to the surface as well.

Pernell said being the one who brings joy, energy and positivity to the Thanksgiving gathering can give the beloved holiday a fresh start for your family. 

“We have to realize that all of us have changed within a year or even two years since we’ve seen some families due to this pandemic. From fighting about masks to fighting about vaccines, new controversies have risen over the past few years. We have to realize what our loved one may have believed at one point may not be what they feel now and we should respect that,” Pernell advised. 

While it may be easier said than done, Pernell said it is important for families to remember that while not all personalities may blend effortlessly, they can still complement each other nicely. 

Here are additional tips on how to navigate family gatherings during Thanksgiving. 

  • Start with a positive mindset and leave the negativity behind.
  • Know and understand your triggers.
  • Avoid the potholes (hot buttons) of conversation (politics, religion, and hot button issues).
  • Take the scenic route. If you need to get up from the table and take a walk outside, go do it!
  • Revisit old memories, but only the good ones!
  • Close the generational gap by connecting through conversation.
  • Tip to get the teens to talk and the adults to listen