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How to Survive Thanksgiving with “Difficult” Family Members

Thanksgiving is a day centered around food, feeling grateful, and giving thanks for everything special in your life, including your family. Spending a day eating, watching football, and being surrounded by family sounds like the all-American tradition we all know and love. Those are memories and good times that you’ll cherish forever. However, there are certain family members that can turn these special moments a little sour. There’s that one family member that always brings up politics, one that says something borderline racist, one that’s misogynistic, or one that just makes overall uncomfortable comments. While it is uncomfortable and upsetting to hear, especially during the holidays, one or two bad apples shouldn’t spoil the bunch. Here are some tips to help you get through Thanksgiving without letting certain family members tarnish a day that we are all supposed to be thankful for one another.


1. Watch a movie

Watching a movie with your family will not only decrease the amount of talking going on, but it can also become a new topic of conversation. You’ll be able to talk about your favorite parts of the movie. I suggest a comedy in order to stay away from films that can continue to carry out the uncomfortable conversation you are trying to avoid.


2. Help out in the kitchen

Try to make yourself busy. Help out in the kitchen, whether it’s cooking, plating the food, or setting up the table. This way the conversation is set around the action of helping out. Generally, helping others and working as a team to get the dinner prepared sets up a positive environment.


3. Hang out with the kids of the family

Stay away from the adults for a little while. Typically, they are the ones who bring up serious topics and have opinion filled conversations that can get a little heated. Hang out with the kids of the family. They may have funny stories about things that happened at school. Overall, it reminds you that there is hope and innocence in the world.


4. Take a break

Throughout the day take a five-minute break or so. Go into another room and lie down or watch TV. You could go outside for some fresh air. You can even pretend to go to the bathroom for a couple of minutes. When you feel like your reaching your breaking point, take a few minutes to be by yourself. Breathe and remind yourself that Thanksgiving is about being thankful for family even though you don’t agree with them most of the time.


5. Ignore it

Of course it is easier said than done, but it’s for the best. No one wants to spend the holiday arguing back and forth with family members. No one wants to spend the holiday with family members who argue back and forth. When an uncomfortable comment is made don’t give it power by acknowledging it. Give a vague response like a nod or an “mhm” and try to change the conversation. They’ll either move on to the new topic or continue to bring up the old one. If so, the more you give vague responses, the less they have to go off on and maybe they’ll get the hint that it is not an appropriate time to have the discussion they want to have.


Thanksgiving is a time that brings families together. It’s best to be the bigger person because one fight during Thanksgiving won’t change that person’s perspective anyway. Just try to change the topic to keep it light and happy and enjoy the food.


Photo credit: Cover photo, Gif 1, Gif 2, Gif 3, Gif 4, Gif 5

Melanie Ararat is a sophomore at the University of Central Florida. She is the Marketing and Publicity co-director for Her Campus UCF. She is majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. Writing has always been her passion since she could literally pick up a pencil (they were just scribbles, but it still counts). You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @melanie_ararat where she posts things that make it seem like she has a life outside of writing and binge watching shows on Netflix.
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