It’s no secret that holidays are high-stress events—especially for the family members who host Thanksgiving dinner. Often times the problem is that we have high expectations of the perfect family dinner just like the ones in commercials, but our families are far from these iconic images. As soon as the wine gets on the table and political discussions break out, you may be ready to pull your hair out after putting so much effort into getting dinner on the table. So how can you make your holiday perfect and memorable for the photo albums? The key is to abandon the idea of the T.V. commercial-ideal for Thanksgiving dinner and embrace your family’s uniqueness as you enjoy a meal together. No one has the perfect family, and tensions tend to run highest during the holiday season. This means that you might have to compromise your expectations and set the tone for a more relaxed day that will not end with a domestic disturbance.
Prepare ahead of time (and get some help)
If you have the stress of a crazy family, you may find yourself overwhelmed by cooking and cleaning as guests arrive. You can reduce the stress by planning ahead of time and taking some shortcuts where they’re needed. Grocery stores and restaurants offer more and more premade side dishes and fully-cooked turkeys to help get dinner on the table, or you can skip the mess altogether and dine out instead. This often has those rowdier family members on better behavior because they are out in a public setting.
Add a personal touch to the event
No matter where you choose to host the event or take a helping hand for dinner, you should keep things fun with your own crafty decorations or table centerpiece. Getting creative in areas you enjoy will let you work out some tension and make the holiday more special.
Plan some afternoon entertainment
Family tension tends to run highest in those afternoon hours after a heavy dinner when kids are bored and other family members are feeling full and irritable. You can prevent the cabin fever effect that sets in early in the afternoon by putting out board games, letting kids play outside, or planning a post-dinner outing to the movies or local park if weather permits.
Have an emergency strategy
Even if you plan everything perfectly and manage to keep your stress down throughout the day, certain volatile family members might still act up and take things out of hand. Plan ahead to be the cooler head in these situations and separate feuding family members so that you can keep a tense situation from getting completely out of control.
When you do start to feel stress, remember that the holidays are a time to relax and enjoy yourself. If things don’t go perfectly, simply take the Friday after Thanksgiving to yourself for some post-holiday relaxation.