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Strategies for keeping the peace on Thanksgiving Day

Strategies for keeping the peace on Thanksgiving Day. (Photo: ABC7)
Strategies for keeping the peace on Thanksgiving Day. (Photo: ABC7)
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Getting to where you’re going for Thanksgiving is one thing and getting along once you’re there can be an entirely different story.

Thanksgiving is a time for food, friends, family and sometimes fierce debates. ABC7 News asked the experts how to keep the holiday enjoyable and conflict-free.

“We predominantly stray away from politics,” said Roni Zelivinski, an Arlington resident.

“I do tell my dad, he would talk politics all day long if he could, so I make him taper it a little bit,” said Alexandria resident Pam Krieger with a laugh.

“We try to stay away from politics,” said Dayle Wine of Bethesda.

That seems to be a general rule for families during the holidays but not everyone steers clear of hot button issues.

“If people do insist then we are all able and entitled to set limits. ‘Hey, I don’t really want to talk about that. I want to enjoy company, I want to enjoy our time together,’” said Dr. Rolando Diaz, a clinical psychologist in Arlington.

“If you chose to bring up something political or something charged, what’s your intention? Are you wanting to be connected and understood or are you trying to make a point and be right? And if so, is it worth it?” said clinical psychologist Dr. Amy Bowers.

“My family is pretty open so we’re going to have at it,” said Arlington resident Dominic Go with a laugh.

Wendy Johnson of Silver Spring said nothing is off-limits.

“Oh, we don’t have any specific table etiquette. We just let it all go,” she said.

Navigating the dinner table with many differing opinions is often tricky. Dr. Diaz suggests deciding before the event what you do and do not want to talk about.

“Preparation in terms of being at peace and comfortable with setting limits in the areas where you don’t want to be taken,” he said.

Diaz believes in most cases, people will respect the boundaries.

Karen Ullman of Manassas knows to keep relationship talk out of the conversation this Thursday.

“We do have one son who is 37, not married, probably never will be and he will not discuss dating, girlfriends or anything,” she said.

“We try not to have anything that might make the dinner a little stale, so we try to keep all of that out,” said Xavier Noel, an Arlington resident.

Dr. Bowers also thinks preparation is key. She said people going to a gathering should ask themselves a question before Thanksgiving.

“’What would make me feel good if I look back on this tomorrow or in a week and wish I would have done?’ Maybe I wanted to have a chance to talk to my aunt and I never get to see her,” she said.

The majority of Thanksgiving dinners most likely will not mirror a Norman Rockwell painting. Both psychologists said to have realistic expectations.

“You know, this is not Festivus, this is not the airing of grievances, it’s Thanksgiving. What can we talk about that we do have in common,” said Bowers.

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“All of our families are idiosyncratic. They have differences and quirky members, some who are loving and warm and welcoming and other people who may be unpleasant. We have to work with what we’ve got,” said Diaz.

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