Thanksgiving is our most family-centered holiday. We come together to share a meal and spend time with those we cherish, or at least that’s the plan. I’m aware that often friction among relatives mars the experience, and an opportunity to celebrate kinship and strengthen family attachments is lost in a whirlwind of discord. That’s enough to make some folks opt out of future family gatherings. Sad as that is, sometimes it’s the last and best solution.
Other times, however, appealing to “the ties that bind” everyone together as family and friends works wonders. Insist that hot button topics be avoided so that everyone can focus instead on getting to know each other better. However committed we are to our positions on matters of politics or religion, we’re much more than those preferences suggest. We need to keep our hearts open and as our parents’ taught us, to treat others the way we want to be treated. Yes, we must establish boundaries and insist upon being treated the way we’re treating those around us. Our goal is to establish mutual respect and open dialogue that strengthens relationships. Even among siblings who have maintained close ties, there’s always something new to learn from and about each other. We’re all multi-faceted, ever-evolving people capable of surprising and being surprised by those nearest and dearest to us.
When we model the behavior we expect from those around us, we’re teaching our children more than our words alone ever could. This Thanksgiving, let’s adopt an attitude of gratitude for our families and those friends who’ve become family. With grace and sincerity, stress the importance of making fond memories of Thanksgiving for ourselves and our children. And speaking of children, those “little pitchers with big ears,” I recommend sharing your plan and helping them figure out ways to deflect or redirect negative comments in these highly polarized times. Diplomacy counts.
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