Thanksgiving. A time for families to come together from near and far to join in meaningful conversations and celebrate the importance of family and give thanks for all they have.
More than likely, however, what they’ll have is some major discomfort; for just as we can count on turkey at Thanksgiving and Santa at Christmas, we can also count on the same old family squabbles at these same gatherings that will simply never change. Indeed, with aging parents, in all likelihood some of us will be facing new or ever increasing upset, as family discussions intensify and the same old tempers flare.
You shouldn’t have to suffer through what is supposed to be a joyous season, or give up on an otherwise beautiful time of the year. Armed with knowledge and a fortified attitude, it is possible to endure – nay, ENJOY – your Thanksgiving dinner, even after your mom asks you again this year when you’re going to settle down and get married (despite your past protests that you’re a homosexual), or your father tells you again that you’re a financial failure since you’re still renting that small apartment and you’ve yet to purchase a home of your own.
Family gatherings provide an opportunity not only to prepare thoughtful food, but thoughtful conversation, too. This is the perfect opportunity to break through any silence, awkwardness or friction through compassionate conversation. How? By carefully and consciously setting and steering the mood of the evening and crafting the conversation, just as consciously as you set the table for the event itself. Some ideas:
• Reflect on previous celebratory events and moments.
• Reflect gently on the absence of loved ones brought to mind by past happy events.
• Deflect unflattering or upsetting conversations to more upbeat topics (have a mental list of topics prepared ahead of time).
• Prepare a tablescape made of memorable family photos, past or present (new family members make for great ice breakers).
Holidays and family gatherings provide an opportunity to have fruitful conversations and family get-togethers, and I am here to guide you through your own family event. The gift of an impartial and skilled negotiator who understands family dynamics with sensitivity and confidentiality is a priceless gift to give yourself and your family this holiday season.
“Talking turkey” well prevents indigestion from too much good turkey and not enough good conversation!
All the best,
[Rabbi Scott B. Saulson, Ph.D.]