Television and movies would have us imagine Thanksgiving as a peaceful, loving, celebration of being grateful and willing to help one another as we sit down to feast on a juicy butter filled turkey. The imagery is great, but the reality is sometimes far removed. Getting family and friends together is important, and it’s exciting, but it’s also stressful and sometimes filled with feelings of dread.
If you are the host, the number one thing you don’t want to do is imagine this year will be perfect. This year won’t be perfect. Your family does not change, and whoever was obnoxious last year will be obnoxious this year. Expecting “them” to change and not hurt your feelings the way they did last year is the single biggest reason people have anxiety about the holidays.
Before the guests arrive there are things you can do to help prevent problems from happening. Making plans to change your perspective and expectations will help you feel more relaxed when the doorbell rings with the first guest.
- Remind yourself that this may not provide the warm fuzzies you’d like for the holidays. Having the guests may be the working part of the holidays for you. If you make that expectation before the guests arrive, you’ll be more willing to give than to receive.
- Don’t expect them to change. Focus on what you can change to accommodate them. For example; Uncle Bob always says things that hurt your feelings; you have two choices. Avoid him completely or be prepared to interrupt him this year if he starts, and focus instead on him. People love talking about themselves and if you begin the conversation you can quickly hand him off to someone else to take over listening.
- Do not personalize anything…ever. Family is family, and they don’t have to change. If they forget your numerous accomplishments and focus instead on your past mistakes, that’s their perspective; not yours.
- Do have planned activities (with maps) available. This will take the pressure off you to entertain them.
- Never turn down help from guests unless the kitchen is an escape for you. Guests are happier if they feel as though they can help, and you can catch up on good conversation in the kitchen.
- Don’t expect your kids to be perfect just because you are hosting the relatives. Kids are kids, and they live in the present. Talking to older children prior to relatives visiting helps them understand the additional stress, but screaming at them when family is together is not okay and will not improve their attitude.
- Make sure you have an event (exercise, coffee with a friend, or activity) that allows you to leave the house and your guests. This will afford you a welcome retreat and getting away helps give perspective.
Thanksgiving comes once a year but leaves memories for a lifetime. You cannot control the memories others are left with, but you can control your own. Change your perspective; instead of judging them as good or bad, focus on the lessons they teach you about your own ability to love, tolerate and forgive. The lessons are there for each and every one of us who celebrates Thanksgiving with family.