There’s so much anxiety that people feel before spending time together with extended family and with in-laws. There’s a real reason for that and often it’s due to the fact that you feel underminded by your extended family. Here’s how to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with your extended family.

More inspiration for how to deal with meddling inlaws and family and stay strong with your spouse:

Is it possible to enjoy the Thanksgiving dinner with your extended family?

This reader is feeling stressed and set up for failure bringing her children to her thanksgiving holiday dinner with the constant need to watch their “breakables”.

Question: Every year we get together with my family for Thanksgiving. While it’s a nice opportunity for everyone to see each other, I really dread it and am beginning to resent it. We have little children and my family has unrealistic expectations of behavior. They expect my kids to sit for the meal and not make a mess. It’s also nerve-wracking for me because their house is full of breakables and is not child-friendly, so I’m constantly on-guard with the kids as I know my family will go ballistic if anything breaks. I feel like I’ve been set up to fail and wind up yelling at my kids and resenting my family. Help! What can I do? -Dreading Thanksgiving

Answer: It makes sense why you would feel that you have been set up for failure. One the one hand, you’re trying to be a “good” daughter by participating in a family function and on the other hand, you feel like your kids are being unfairly scrutinized. In your fear of judgment from your family, you wind up lashing out at your kids even though they’re just being kids.

The first point to be aware of is that you probably won’t change your family’s expectations. So you have to go into it with that assumption.

Knowing that may help you be able to deal with the feelings of injustice you may be experiencing. If you do attend, you will be going with the full knowledge of what you are going to expect.

You are choosing to attend. You are choosing that the obligation that you feel to participate outweighs the potential problems that will arise.

If you feel like you can’t handle it, you can choose not to attend.

While I am not suggesting you don’t show up, you’ll want to make a conscious decision either way. When you choose to attend, you go in knowing that you will get comments about your kids.

You will also have more confidence to defend yourself against such remarks.

Otherwise, you go in as an angry victim.

So, don’t expect anyone else to change and make a conscious to attend or not.

Some techniques you can use before the Thanksgiving Holiday even begins.

If you can share your feelings in a loving and caring way, you may want to talk about this issue with your family before Thanksgiving.

Tell them how important it is to you to spend family time and that you really want to attend. Let them know that it’s hard for you and the kids to hear such snide remarks and it makes it difficult for all of you to enjoy the evening.

It also leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.

Share with them how you may not parent the same way and may have different expectations for your children and that you are the parent.

See how they respond. They may be understanding and change their attitude. You may mutually decide to host at your place so you don’t need to worry about the breakables.

Having a heart to heart would be the best option, but, again, don’t expect anyone else to change.

Think about how you can change your reaction, if you truly wish to attend. You’ll need to do some soul-searching together with your spouse and do a cost-benefit analysis. Some people just “suck it up” and tell themselves, it’s one day a year that is uncomfortable but for the sake of saving face, I’m going to deal.

Others are so distressed that they don’t feel like they can handle it.

You will need to choose the attitude you wish to have and make the best of it. I hope this Thanksgiving will be a more positive experience!

This reader didn’t talk too much about how she communicates about her extended family with her husband. It’s important to learn safe ways to communicate around this loaded topic of extended family and meddling inlaws. Learning more about Imago Therapy and experiencing the Imago Dialogue will help you. Contact me if you would like to experience this yourself so that you no longer feel so triggered by your inlaws.



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Shlomo & Rivka Slatkin

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin is an Imago relationship therapist and certified (master level) Imago workshop presenter with over 20 years of experience hosting couples therapy retreats in-person and online. Contact or