Keeping your nerve: Family mediation at the Thanksgiving dinner table

Every holiday season, we’re presented with the warm and wonderfully terrifying opportunity to come together with family and friends. While mastering those classic family recipes is important, it’s the conversation that has the highest tendency to get overheated.

To keep nerves calm and tension low, we have some tips to help mediate our anxieties at the Thanksgiving dinner table that will help us navigate the intense and unnecessary conversations that might sprout. Licensed family therapist Rachel Bales here to help.

Our first step should be starting with ourselves and your feelings.

Rachel: You have to know your own capacity and your own threshold for interactions with others. If someone brings up politics, is it going to be stressful enough to where you maybe need to leave the room and go somewhere else, or can you stay in the room and handle that without too much stress. So it really comes down to knowing what you need to do to take care of yourself first and foremost.

Understanding your own tolerance of these conversations is only the first step, so what comes next?

Rachel: Communicate your limits and boundaries to others. Communication is really key.

So how do you communicate your feelings without hurting the feelings of those around you?

Rachel: You can do that compassionately. Setting limits doesn’t mean you’re rude or mean to people, it just simply means saying to others, “Yeah, I’m not going to be able to do that for you, and that’s okay.”

Finally, you should think about why you’re there.

Rachel: So you have to keep in mind, “What’s my goal here? What’s the point of all of this?” If the point is to get together and just enjoy being in the same space as people that mean a lot to you even though they annoy you, even though you might get frustrated with them at times, then keep that in the front of your mind.