How to Avoid Family Stress on Thanksgiving (There’s Actually a Hotline You Can Call)







Family holidays always have the potential for their fair share of conflict. But for a large gathering like Thanksgiving, and particularly after this year’s election, things could turn downright explosive.

Luckily, Lizzie Post has some strategies for those looking to have as happy and harmonious of a holiday as possible. Post is no novice when it comes to the area of etiquette. Her great-great-grandmother was the famous Emily Post, and Lizzie now cohosts the Awesome Etiquette podcast along with her cousin, Dan. So we called her up to hear the ins and outs of political conversations, food restrictions, and the touchy area of unsolicited advice.

“You know your family,” Post emphasizes right off the bat. “So don’t seat someone who leans super politically right next to someone who leans left.” Wise words for this year, but a tactic that should be heeded at all times. “My mom and aunt used to strategically host, seat, and plan around relationships that they knew were really difficult,” she adds. At the same time, this year, Post says it’s okay to ask for a cease-fire. How should a host approach this? Start with an opening toast, she advises. “Say something like: ‘We are so happy that everyone is here, and we are so grateful to have such a politically diverse family, however, we are really going to ask that we leave politics off the table for this meal.’ And that’s okay to do! It’s not exactly the most polite and inviting thing to say, but it might save your holiday.”

Food restrictions are another issue that often comes up. If you’re skeptical of someone’s gluten allergy, Post says, you still have to believe the person who is saying they have an allergy—and try to accommodate them. “Accommodation, though, could be saying, ‘Thank you so much for telling me. I am not comfortable cooking for that type of a diet. Would you be okay bringing a dish or a plate for yourself?’ And it’s really important, too, for that guest to offer to bring something that meets their needs.” Of course, there is always the chance that a new significant other could arrive before their allergies have been accounted for, but in those scenarios, everyone should pitch in to remedy the situation—even if that means another last-minute trip to the grocery store.

Musical chairs for a menu is one thing, but the holidays can often be fraught for larger reasons. A common issue Post sees is the offering of poorly worded advice. “If someone starts recounting details of something really difficult, like a divorce, start any advice you give with something like, ‘I’m sure you’ve thought of this in a million different ways already, but . . .’ Because, they are living it! And they are therefore thinking about this issue all the time.” However, if you are the person feeling down in the muck, Post suggests having a few go-to lines for more distant family members, and speaking to those who you are closer with about what’s going on during a private moment. If things do start to snowball quickly on Thursday, there is something you can do in medias res. For the first time, Post and Bob Evans Restaurants are organizing a holiday help hotline for non-cooking related crises. The number to call is 855.4.MYTABLE. So whether you can’t remember which side the fork goes on, or you’re tearing your hair out after being lectured by your mother for the 100th time, this is your 911 for the night.

 

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