Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Families are planning to gather around the table to strengthen their connections to one another and maintain traditions. There is a good side to this holiday, and a not so good one. Let’s start with the happy side.

This is the only holiday that everybody in this country celebrates, regardless of ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations or political ideologies. Families, spread around the country and abroad, get back together, with great anticipation and excitement. Relatives, who have not seen each other in months, finally can spend time together and catch up with whatever is going on in their lives. Everybody seems to be happy to be in each other’s lives, at least for a few days. Television shows and commercials reinforce this idyllic image. Thanksgiving is also the official starting of the holiday season, which creates more expectations and anticipations. What is there not to like about all this?

There is a not so good side to Thanksgiving. Airports and roads are crowded. Flights are delayed. Hotels are full. Children are tired and whining. Couples may have to juggle which part of the family they should spend the holiday with. Some of them will eat two dinners, running from one relative’s house to another. Others will argue and disagree on who should have its turn this year to host the dinner.
After the initial happiness of seeing one another, old family dynamics may not take long to get unconsciously reinstated. Parents may revert back to treating their adult children as though they were still ten years old, despite the fact that they haven’t lived together for years. Siblings may regress to old rivalries, teasing and being insensitive with each other, as they used to do when much younger. Everybody will definitively eat too much and worry about having to lose those few extra pounds… need I go on and on?

How can we enjoy this holiday without getting caught in all these problems?

Stay focused on the meaning and symbolic importance of Thanksgiving in your life, and let go of the petty stuff. And, trust me, most of what is upsetting is petty stuff. Be more mindful of the fact that you may be very familiar with other members of the family based on who they were, but you may not know who they are TODAY. Treat them respectfully and appropriately by staying in the present, not in the past. Do not assume or take things for granted and try not to impose your ideas, or tell people what to do.
So, what if our little brother still torments you at the dinner table, or if Mother tells you to wash your hands as though you wouldn’t have known to do it without her, or Dad gives you yet another lecture on how to carve the turkey? In the future you won’t remember these annoying parts, but recall with nostalgia being with your loved ones, who may no longer be in your life. Then you will miss them, and miss those times.

So, prepare for the holiday by being relaxed and tolerant. Don’t have lofty expectations, or else you will be disappointed. Being together is all you want and all you will get. After all, Thanksgiving will be over in a flash. During the few hours or few days of visiting, sharing, catching up, reminiscing and creating new narratives to pass on to the next generation, make the best of your family connections. Enjoy this holiday and be grateful for all the people in it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Author's Bio: 

Daniela Roher, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist in private practice with offices in Carefree, AZ and in Scottsdale, AZ. Daniela has worked in this field helping individuals and couples better understand their emotions and teaching them how to manage and regulate them, without letting them get overwhelming or frightening. She has been in this profession for over thirty years, both in Europe and the U.S. Aside from her reputation as a clinician, Daniela has developed a national reputation with her blog.