How to Deal with Hurtful Family Members on Thanksgiving 2014


Thanksgiving is one of the most magical holidays of the year. It’s practical in that it has no mystical characters that bring presents to leave under the tree after coming in through your chimney, but it’s magical in that it’s the one day of the year that families come together in an effort to put aside their differences and make a beautiful day out of it. It’s a time of thanks and of giving, and it’s the day we get to eat so much good food we don’t fit into our skinny jeans for days.

Thanksgiving is about love, thanks and appreciation; and it’s about family. For those of us who have close-knit families, it’s a beautiful day. For those who have families that are a bit estranged, don’t always get along or even have some serious issues, it’s a day that brings about some serious anxiety and fear. Thanksgiving for some families is not a happy day. It’s a day of sadness and fear, nerves and little excitement. If you’re one of those families – and believe me, there are millions of them – you’ll need a little bit of advice to get you through the day. Whether you have a mother-in-law who thinks everything you do is wrong or parents that never bother to notice anything positive you do, this advice will help to make the day more enjoyable; as it should be.

Use Humor

When someone says something inappropriate or potentially hurtful, try to laugh it off. For example, when your dad asks you why you haven’t been named CEO of the company yet when your sister managed to become CEO twice as fast, laugh it off. Say something like, “In this amazing economy?” or “Well, I’d probably be CEO, too, if I lived and breathed the office, but I do have kids to take care of and a husband to spend time with and she’s still single, so you know!”

When people use humor in response to questions that might otherwise be hurtful, it can diffuse the situation and make things a bit more enjoyable for all involved. Do this enough, and your irritating family member might even just get the hint and leave you alone for good. It’s worth a shot.

Ignore Hurtful Comments

Your mother-in-law hates your gravy, it’s not as good as hers. She hates the way you iron her son’s shirts. She doesn’t think he should have to make his own plate and that you should do it, and she never fails to mention that in the middle of every single meal you’ve ever had with her. And don’t even get her started on the fact that you don’t cut your kids’ sandwiches for lunches in the shape of little hearts every morning. If someone in your family is overbearing and says hurtful things on the regular, ignore it.

This might be easier said than done for the most part, but it’s practical advice on Thanksgiving. It’s 2014; not 1954. You have every right to stand up for yourself and stick a lunchable in the kids’ lunch box if that’s what you want. But if your mother-in-law still thinks that 2014 is the time to spend Thanksgiving harassing her daughter-in-law, you don’t have to accept the invitation to her arguments. Just ignore her. Pretend you don’t hear her. Simply do not respond. Just ignore her. The less reaction she receives, the more likely she is to keep her thoughts to herself because it’s not fun anymore.

Change the Subject

So you’re trying to get pregnant and you’ve been trying for almost a year with no success. You’re upset about it, and rightly so, but your sister keeps pushing and pushing you to know when you’re having kids and telling you you’re doing it wrong. After all, she had 3 kids in 3 years on the first time every time. Good for her; of course you’re happy for her and you love your nieces and/or nephews, but that doesn’t mean that you have to dread Thanksgiving in 2014 because people are unintentionally cruel and hurtful. Just change the subject. No, it’s not always that easy. However, it does help.

When someone brings up something you find upsetting or uncomfortable or even inappropriate, interject with a thrilling piece of information or an interesting story. It’s usually enough to divert the attention of everyone involved so that they can focus on something else instead of the previous conversation.

Stay Calm

Some people are troublemakers. Unfortunately, someone has to be related to those people. If it’s you, stay calm. Hopefully this is one of very few days you actually have to spend time with people like this. And no, it’s not fair that they ruin your holiday before it even approaches, but you still have to stay calm. Getting upset or acting hurt is only going to fuel the fire by angering people further and by causing an even bigger issue, which might even turn into you being called sensitive or buttoned-up or not willing to take a joke.

Just stay calm. Remind yourself that in a few hours, you can go home or your guests will go home. Remind yourself that you have friends and a spouse or kids that love you very much, and that you don’t have to see others on a regular basis. Remind yourself that while some people are just awful, you don’t have to live with them.

And if you have people like this in your house, perhaps you should avoid alcohol this day. Sure, it makes people seem easier to deal with, but the added issue of alcohol and bad attitudes usually only makes things far worse than they really are. Do yourself a favor and try to stick with water or eggnog so you can stay calm and relaxed.

If necessary, have a friend call and tell you there is an emergency at home or work so you can leave with your family and go do something enjoyable; like have a drink and not have to worry about people getting on your nerves.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images


Leave a Reply