How to have a happy Thanksgiving

Once a year we celebrate the idea of families gathering to feast upon turkey and stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie. There are parades in the morning and Lions football in the afternoon.

While family togetherness is great, it also can be a time of tension and anger, especially when times are tough and people are out of work or struggling to stay healthy. For those whose families have been torn asunder, it can be a lonely day.

In the spirit of thankfulness, we offer a few tips to make this and future holidays more enjoyable.

Think before you speak. If you know your older brother is still out of work, this is not the day to bring it up. Zip it before you knock the new piercing in your niece’s eyebrow as well. And when Grandma starts her 30th rendition of the year she burnt the turkey, smile and be grateful she’s still able to share the story.

Help out and be gracious about it. Encourage the younger family members to participate in cooking, cleaning, setting the table, talking to the quieter or struggling members. Better yet, use the day to make a plan to do something charitable during the next month — volunteer, wrap gifts, make food, donate — whatever the family can agree on.

Abstain from excessive indulgence. Hog neither the food nor the conversation. Instead practice listening and eat slowly.

No narrow-mindedness. Very few families are all exactly alike. If they were, they would be boring. Here’s a chance to stretch and learn about what those around you find interesting. Open your head and your heart, you may learn something. Ask questions instead of attacking positions that are contrary to your own.

Kick back and enjoy the day. Notice people, Smile. Soak up the wonderful smells. Laugh. Watch others. Enjoy the fact that all of you are here together. Remember with fondness those who are unable to be with you.

Share stories. Build memories. Here are some sure conversation starters: “Tell me about the most fun time you can recall.” “What is your earliest memory?” “What are your greatest strengths?” “Explain a situation where you had to overcome adversity.”

Give up being the center of attention and let others stand in the spotlight. Resist the urge to tell others what they should be doing to straighten out or improve.

Identify and call attention to a special positive quality about everyone who is sharing a meal with you. Go the whole day thinking and saying only good things about everyone you see.

Verify that everyone feels welcome and safe, treasured and valued. Showing kindness and consideration will help everyone relax and enjoy the day.

Imbibe little in the way of alcohol, but as much as you can absorb about your family history. Take notes if you can, maybe even start a written family history that can be added to at each gathering.

Nudge everyone to remember those who are needy. Look for ways to lend a helping hand.

Gratitude is the reason for the holiday. Remember to express it that day and always.

Happy Thanksgiving.