Thanksgiving is a time for gathering and gratitude, but it can also be tense and stressful. This is especially true if you are spending the big meal with your spouse’s family. Here’s what people around campus said are the important things to remember while waiting for the turkey to be carved.

The P Word

That’s right, politics. Thanksgiving is famous for political debates among families.

Katia Brown, a senior studying communication, sees every part of the political spectrum in one place when her family and her husband’s family gather. Her mother-in-law gave her advice on managing conversations among diverse political family members.

Be prepared to handle political subjects while home for Thanksgiving.

Be prepared to handle political subjects while home for Thanksgiving. Photo credit: Briona McGregor

“People have stopped being tolerant of other people’s views,” Brown said. “…The hard part about navigating politics is that people are so set in their opinions that you can’t sway them anyway. (My mother-in-law’s) philosophy is to listen and if she gets upset she excuses herself from the conversation.”

Stephen Henderson, a communication professor, has a simple take on politics: Just avoid them.

Happily participate in family traditions

Spending the holidays with your spouse’s family can be revealing. Not everyone has the same traditions.

Natalie George, a senior studying biomedical science, said that her family plays soccer early Thanksgiving morning in the cold. She had to prep her husband and make sure he was ready for something everyone else expected, even if he didn’t enjoy it.

“Be okay with variety in the meal,” Henderson said. “Your mother-in-law isn’t going to make those rolls the same way Mom made them, and you need to be okay with that.”

Be an agent of peace

No family agrees on everything. Even if yours does, you might find that your in-laws do not.

“If it doesn’t need to be said and it’s just going to cause contention then just don’t say that,” said Lexi Johnson, a junior studying communication. “It’s not that hard to just shut your mouth for two seconds instead of causing a problem.”

Johnson holds true to this assertion even though her in-laws put all the food away immediately after the meal ends in the mid-afternoon, not to be seen until the next day.

Be an agent of peace at family gatherings.

Be an agent of peace at family gatherings. Photo credit: Briona McGregor

“Don’t be so worried about what you want,” Brown said. “Just enjoy the time with the people you love because you don’t get that back.”

Henderson agrees.

“You should always treat an opportunity with loved ones like you’ll never get them back,” Henderson said.

Remember that you are a team

In the end, you and your spouse will stand by one another as the wave of holidays rolls by. Make sure you are on the same page.

“Always make sure that you and your spouse are on the same team,” George said. “You are your own family unit … Remember you aren’t going for your in-laws, you’re going for your spouse.”

My own husband, when asked about spending Thanksgiving with my family, kept his comments simple: “Beats spending it with my family.”