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Surviving Thanksgiving with a dysfunctional family

Sherri Kuhn is a freelance writer, blogger and social media junkie. With a son in college and a daughter in high school, she always has something to write about. Sherri blogs from the heart — with an occasional side of sarcasm and humor...

How to deal with the turkeys

What do you think about when someone mentions Thanksgiving? Maybe it's the smell of warm, roasted turkey and homemade pumpkin pie coming from the kitchen. Or is it the cute little kids in pajamas watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on television? What about sharing things that you are thankful for around the dinner table? If these are your fond memories of Thanksgiving, congratulations. This article isn't for you.

How to deal
with the turkeys

What do you think about when someone mentions Thanksgiving? Maybe it's the smell of warm, roasted turkey and homemade pumpkin pie coming from the kitchen. Or is it the cute little kids in pajamas watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on television? What about sharing things that you are thankful for around the dinner table? If these are your fond memories of Thanksgiving, congratulations.
This article isn't for you.

Family Thanksgiving dinner

Family — you have to love them, but you certainly didn't choose them! Most of us have an oddball or three in our family tree, and they are bringing their "A" game for the holiday celebration. Sure, time with family is great, but not ALL of the family is so awesome. We've got tips on how to deal with those dysfunctional family members and get through your holiday season in one piece — with a side order of snark and humor, of course.

Grabby Brother-in-Law Grant

You and your sister haven't always seen eye to eye, but your ties are strong. But what was she thinking when she married Grabby Grant? He lives for full-on hugs and garlic breath kisses on your cheek. He's not really doing anything wrong — everyone from Mom to the next-door neighbor gets the same treatment — but it's enough to make you catch a "mystery virus" before every family get-together.

This Thanksgiving, make yourself extra useful and always have something in your arms — someone's baby, a turkey on a platter, a bucket of ice, a slow cooker or a pitcher of iced tea — just something awkward and big. Grabby Grant won't be able to figure out a way around that, and you will save yourself from smelling that hint of garlic breath he leaves on your cheek. Bonus points for you if Mom notices how incredibly helpful you are this year! Christmas is coming, you know.

Chatty Cousin Cathy

Ever since you were babies, your aunt and mother have insisted that you will be lifelong friends, not just cousins. Of course you love her — but she just won't stop talking. The annual Thanksgiving family feast is one of the few times you see her each year, so she has lots to tell you. By the time the pumpkin pie is gone, you will know everything about her bowel movements, her cat's health history, why her neighbor is divorcing and the last five episodes of her favorite reality show.

Need a break? Take her aside and "confide" that your sister secretly envies your relationship with her since after all, she's a cousin too. Encourage Chatty Cathy to help your sister make the mashed potatoes and sit with her at dinner — for the good of the family, of course. You'll get a break, Cathy will get a new audience and your sister will finally see how horrible it is to be your cousin's BFF.

Obnoxious Aunt Olive

We can all relate to this family member. Aunt Olive seems older than she really is — possibly since she hasn't cracked a smile in this century. She never likes any of the food offered, complains about how hot/cold/drafty the house is, never remembers anyone's name and chugs her wine like a frat boy at the country club.

What this woman needs is a job for the festivities — something to keep her busy enough that nobody will have to listen to her complaints. Assign her a task or two that will make her feel powerful and important. Hand her your digital camera and let her be a paparazza for the day, or assign her the grueling task of drafting the seating chart. Sure, she will still complain — but at least she'll be busy and away from the wine bottle.

Little Backtalk Bobby

Oh, the little ones are so precious and adorable at Thanksgiving time! Well, most of them, anyway. Your little nephew Bobby is the apple of his parents' eye — and a big pain in the butt. At home he rules the roost, so he interrupts every adult conversation you try to have with his mother (who is oblivious but sweet), and he keeps shouting, "Watch me! Watch me!" loud enough that Uncle Joe has to turn down his hearing aid.

You can't send him outside with the other cousins because they may tie him to a tree — but you can give him a bag of marshmallows, a pack of bubble gum or a chewy candy bar to keep him quiet. Better yet, send him over to Chatty Cathy and let him tell her the story of his birthday party with the bounce house. Again.

Thanksgiving really is a time to celebrate your relationships with family and friends — no matter how dysfunctional they may be. Even the craziest family members bring something to our lives.

Tell us

How will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year?


More Thanksgiving tips

How to survive Thanksgiving with your in-laws
Traditional vs. modern Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving traditions to start now

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