Large Family gatherings like Thanksgiving are often very stressful times. Can we make this a Thanksgiving where we don’t leave thankful that we don’t have to see them again for another year?
Yes, there are ways to make this Thanksgiving a time we will give thanks for. It will take some effort, but it can be worth it. There are three phases to Healing Thanksgiving family stress. Preparation, action, and recovery.
Prepare yourselves. We gather together because these people have meant so much to us in the past. The stress arises as we relive and re-enact old ways that caused pain. Focusing upon the joy and love we shared will help. As we prepare for the gathering several things can be done.
First, get yourself in a positive frame of mind by playing music you enjoy. Don’t listen to the news or talk radio. Play music that you want to dance to or sing along with. In the family car can you all join in?
Next recall what you have enjoyed about those you will see. Are there funny stories or tender moments you shared? Was there a favorite bedtime’s story you used to share? What games did you play together? Were there vacations that you enjoyed together? Yes, there was some pain in these events but focus upon the fun and joy you shared.
What do you want to accomplish at the event. Thanksgiving is the start of a season where we exchange gifts. Can you make it a goal to listen to each person you meet and find the perfect gift that will bring that person joy? It may be a note or other personal act that will mean the most to many people. What will make each person you meet happy?
At the event there are things you can do. While you wait for the organized meals and other activities you will have time to talk and catch up. What did they enjoy since you last met? What joys do they look forward to? These enquiries will help you discover that perfect gift.
As people gather to eat, pause to share. Taking a moment for each person to express a reason they are thankful for each person there will help. Then also share a brief story of a good time you shared with each other. Smaller gatherings can be done one at a time. Larger groups may have to do musical chairs with several people talking and listening at the same time.
Between the meal and desert there is often a pause to let the food settle. Use this time to join in a pastime that you enjoyed in the past. Try to include that entire are there. Card games, puzzles, and charades are just a few examples of ways to gather and enjoy.
Others will have expectations that are not met. Don’t criticize others. If you feel offended, let them know you felt pain at their action. Ask that they act differently next time. If they criticize you, realize that they cared about what you did. They are risking the relationship to express their pain. Why did they care so much? How else could their need been met? Is there a gift idea here?
Ass you part company find a way to express your joy at seeing each person again. And wish them well.
As you head home you are usually exhausted. Hopefully you are happy and content. Often we are frustrated by all the social correctness we had to perform. Give yourself and others a time to relax and rest. Put soothing music on the radio (or CD player). When you feel calmed let the conversation flow. Seek out the joys and frustrations. Why did certain things people did or said frustrate you? What did you need when you got frustrated? Once people feel heard then you can try to end the ride exchanging what you look forward to with each person that will bring you BOTH Joy.
Thanksgiving is a time for giving Thanks; can we make this gathering an event to be Thankful for?
As All Ways, Seek Joy,
Coach, Dr. Dave
Author of the forthcoming book, “Recipes for Lemonade (Thrive thru Disability): Dr. Dave’s personal story”
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