Tips on avoiding family drama during Thanksgiving

DETROIT – Family members and friends -- some of whom you may not see that often -- will gather around a table Thursday for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for family. Children are home from college and some travel across the country to see their loved ones. It’s a great time to catch up with loved ones.

Once people get past basic pleasantries, the conversations can sometimes take a turn.

How do you keep things civil?

“Think about what we want to say versus what we actually say,” said Dr. Donna Rockwell.

Rockwell is a mental health expert out of Royal Oak who knows the wrong word can quickly start trouble. She wants everyone to know they don’t have to share every thought that pops into their head.

“It’s very important to plan ahead for that Thanksgiving dinner table,” Rockwell said. “In the time before, we’re going to have cocktails. So, we need to really understand that we need to choose what we say.”

She suggests having a strategy in mind to cut of trouble before it happens -- distract them and try to guide the conversation to something else.

Rockwell said politics should be off limits.

“We really don’t need to talk about politics. We’re such a loving family. Let’s just talk about the grand kids or the kids," Rockwell suggests as conversation topics. “What are they doing in school? Where are you going on vacation?”

There are plenty of things to talk about that won’t raise controversy -- like the Detroit Lions. Most Michiganders are in agreement on the Lions.

Rockwell said other conversation topics like past relationships, past job and really to avoid the past entirely.

The biggest trap to avoid is having too many cocktails.

“Alcohol loosens the tongue and we say things that we wouldn’t normally say,” Rockwell said. “We have this disinhibition that stops us normally and alcohol kind of greases that.”

Every family has members who enjoy conflict and push buttons for the fun of it. Rockwell encourages residents to not behave out of their own self-interest, but to think about the children that are likely part of your family’s time together.

“Children are always modeling their behavior after what they see us grown up’s do,” Rockwell said. “Every moment we are teaching our children how to behave based on how we behave.”

Rockwell said families will always argue and encourages people to challenge themselves to not start arguments this year.

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