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Thanksgiving Survival Tips

And so the holiday ride begins...

We all have parts of us that long for some ideal family holiday - the way we think it should be or the one we wished we had when we were young. This ideal is usually in harsh contrast to the reality of our experience. I asked one of my mom’s yesterday, “What are you most looking forward to about Thanksgiving?” Her answer was, “Surviving it.” I’m pretty sure she’s not alone.

So today, I’m planning to keep it real and practical. For instance, you won’t hear me suggesting that you take turns at the table saying what you’re grateful for.

Here’s what I will suggest.

Be your child’s ally.

For stress-sensitive, or introverted kids, social demand is a HUGE stress. Add that to an unpredictable schedule, loss of routine, stressed out parents, unrealistic expectations and weird food and and it’s no wonder they’re prone to acting out, melting down, bouncing off the walls, and being defiant and disrespectful.

Being your child’s ally means pro-actively making their environment less overwhelming. Remember, your child has practically no control over what happens to them. Give them agency where you can so they don’t have to use their behavior to get what they need.

Here are a few thoughts:

1. Set realistic expectations. This will also help you be more relaxed!

Thanksgiving dinner is not the time to teach your child a life lesson about family by making them stay at the table while everyone talks and eats for a LONG time. Figure out how long you you think your child could realistically stay at the table without becoming disruptive. Then set a timer for ½ that time and let them know that’s how long they need to sit at the table. Give your child control of the timer.

Don’t expect your child to try new foods at Thanksgiving dinner. As a matter of fact, don’t even suggest they try any of the foods. Let them pick what goes on their plate or doesn’t. Be their ally.

Make sure you feed them a good breakfast in the morning before you leave (or your guests arrive) and pack or have them pack (depending on their age) appropriate snacks and their favorite video. Be their ally.

2. Keep to their routine as best you can.

I know it sucks when you want to keep adulting. However, your child probably can’t handle staying up late without a meltdown or major power struggle - so be their ally and be prepared to leave the party early. It will put you in control and make for a much more pleasant ending to your holiday.

3. Let them set their own pace when it comes to hugging Grama or kissing uncle John. The whole holiday situation is already overwhelming. Unwanted touch can trigger their stress response and make them feel even more out of control, thus leading to unwanted behavior. Your goal is to keep the stress in the environment as low as possible in order to make it as easy as possible for them. Be their ally when they don’t feel like being touched.  

I believe the valuable life lessons your child will learn are

  • that they can count on you to be there for them in stressful situations,

  • that they are not on their own when they feel overwhelmed,

and that these are the lessons that will help them build the resilience and connected relationship necessary to take on the values you want most for them.

I am grateful for you…

Happy Thanksgiving!

In support,


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