7 tips if you expect your Thanksgiving to be like driving a gas truck over a campfire

Last week a friend talked about his Thanksgiving plans. “It’s just us and my dad. The rest of the family can’t get along during the year and I can’t stand watching everyone try to be nice to each other. I’m sick of it.” Can you relate?

I shared that story with my wife Brenda at breakfast and asked rhetorically, “So what can you do when your family is difficult, argumentative, critical, negative, and everybody’s always getting their feelings hurt – and then you all moosh together at Thanksgiving?”

She started talking and I grabbed a pad of little 2-inch sticky-note squares to make notes. I had a few thoughts, too. Maybe one of these will add some calm and encouragement to your Thanksgiving :


Take charge of making people feel wanted. Find little ways to show some excitement and appreciation for each person’s presence. Start now, before they arrive. You want them to feel like their presence matters to you.


Don’t expect your words to have the power to fix anything. You’re not going to repair years of family dysfunction on one day. But positive, encouraging words CAN keep things from getting worse, and can set a mood and tone for conversations.


Don’t take Thanksgiving as a chance to talk Christian to your relatives. (Of course if they bring it up, go for it.) Take it as a chance to BE Christian. Show up as your normal self and don’t underestimate the power of Jesus in you.


Be a master of patience and calm. Don’t let your mood or tone be influenced by any chaotic negativity. Don’t try to fix it, don’t scold, don’t get huffy or flustered on the outside. Calm silence is powerful over the long haul.


After eating, while still at the table, go around and share “one thing you appreciate about the one on your left.” YOU start. Keep it short and sincere.


Think of Thanksgiving as just one click on the family togetherness dial. Then later, build on that small improvement in dial position. More opportunities for clicks are coming in December and at Christmas.


Spend some time before Thursday pondering these words:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen – Ephesians 4.29

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world – Philippians 2.14-15

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace – James 3.16-18

You might find more ideas HERE.

How do you help your family get along at Thanksgiving?

About the Author


Gary Morland helps you feel better about your most challenging family relationships, and helps you actually improve those relationships - all by adopting simple attitudes, perspectives, expectations, and actions (the same ones that changed him and his family).


  1. Pam Cason

    Good tips here, Gary. Fortunately, our family is close-knit and all tends to go well when coming together over the holidays. We’re not perfect, and like every family we have our stuff, but we’re able to overlook the quirks and put aside other annoyances and just enjoy being together. We are blessed!

    Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours!

    • some harmony is definitely a blessing – hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful

  2. Angela Shaw

    Great advice!

  3. Angel @ Finding The Inspiring

    Love this Gary! Thank you for addressing a common issue with uncommon wisdom. Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. m

    I was hoping to see you in my “in box”! Thanks for sharing…some good tools to implement there:) Don’t be such a stranger…lol:) & Happy Thanksgiving to y’all!!!
    Blessings & love,

  5. AnnVoskamp_HolyExperience

    This helps beyond Thanksgiving — THANK YOU.

  6. first of all…the picture…i mean, really…hilarious.
    such simple and helpful ideas here. thanks.
    #2 really resonated with me. a wise friend once told me just as I was about to step into a stressful family situation – don’t go in there with an agenda to fix everything, just show up and love them.
    amen to that.

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