Every year, families gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s meant to be a time of togetherness, a time to express gratitude and connect with those we love. Yet somewhere between the stuffing and the cranberry sauce, the fun often gets lost. What begins as a relaxing day unravels into a stressful chain of events. Many folks, especially parents of young children, find themselves at their wit’s end, ready for a power nap by the end of the afternoon. So how do you ensure that Thanksgiving gets off to a great start? Here are nine little secrets to survive Thanksgiving you won’t want to miss.
Lose the Cape
You are not Superman or Wonderwoman. You don’t walk on water or fly. You may be tempted to do it all – clean, cook, entertain and decorate. The key is to delegate the Thanksgiving duties as much as possible. For example, handoff turkey duty to a willing adult. Enlist the kids to clean the table. Have your husband set up the chairs. Have Aunt Martha bring the dessert. You’ll feel relieved, knowing you’re not on your own.
Reflect on your basic needs
Before Thanksgiving arrives, spend some time reflecting and pondering. What do you desire for the holidays? What does the picture perfect day look like to you? Is it peacefulness you long for? Do you hope for connection and community? Is good food most important to you? Or do you just want folks to share stories, have fun and laugh? As you reflect, remember that this can be YOUR day. Choose to wrap Thanksgiving around YOUR life, not your life around Thanksgiving.
Ask for what you need
You have not because you ask not. Most people are happy to help if you simply ask for what you need. Yes, asking means getting vulnerable and taking a risk but doing so ensures that you get what you need so you can survive Thanksgiving. Don’t be afraid to include your kiddos: “Sweetie, can you be my helper and start setting the table?”
Don’t express a fickle wish. If something is important to you, state it clearly. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Uncle John, it would mean a lot to me if you would bring your favorite dish.” Sometimes, people don’t fulfill our wishes because they simply don’t know what we want.
Map out the day
If you want to be mentally prepared and make sure that your family knows what to expect, it’s important to map out your day. A builder needs a building plan, a teacher needs a lesson plan, and a pilot needs a flight plan. In the same way, your family holiday needs a solid game plan. As Thanksgiving approaches, choreograph each move of the day in your mind. Write this down if you can. Be specific. What time would you like to play games? What time will you eat dessert? What time do you want to put the food on the table? A plan ensures things will go relatively smoothly because you’ve mapped out the day ahead of time.
Make adjustments to your Thanksgiving day plan before everyone arrives
This helps you fine-tune the day before it starts. Even the best intentions get thwarted sometimes.
Bending and modifying your plans helps ensure you enjoy Thanksgiving because you are able to roll with the changes. For example, if Uncle John gets stuck in traffic, Aunt Mary gets sick, or the homemade apple pie turns out disastrous, you’ll be able to laugh things off more easily if you remain flexible.
Connect with your guests
Thanksgiving is all about relating to others so look them in the eye. Connect with them both physically with a hug and emotionally with a smile. Thanksgiving is about bonding with the most important people in your life so don’t be afraid to show affection or say “I’m so glad you came today.” You’ll make people feel welcome even under the most stressful circumstances.
Play a game
Games are a great way to get the whole family engaged. Try the LRC (Left Center Right) dice game, which can be purchased for $7 from Target or Walmart. For added fun, have everyone throw $3 into the pot so everyone, even the kiddos, gets invested in who wins. This can provide endless fun and laughter, rounding out a wonderful day.
Thanksgiving doesn’t need to be stressful. It can be YOUR day. There will always be the inevitable stressor— cranky children, burnt turkeys, the great-aunt who won’t stop talking about politics. But with these nine little secrets under your belt, you’ll be able to finally sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy Thanksgiving this year instead of dreading it.
Author: Steve Cuffari For many, Steve Cuffari is the mentor that parents call on to make their parenting style warmer, easier and more affective. He is the founder of inTouch Parenting, a company devoted to helping today's parents calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture families that thrive. read more about Steve Cuffari here...