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Tips from a professional on surviving Thanksgiving with rude relatives

Thanksgiving dinner. So much room for hope. So much room for disappointment.
Eric Pancer
Flickr Creative Commons
Thanksgiving dinner. So much room for hope. So much room for disappointment.

Comments from sanctimonious relatives can be the difference between a good holiday and a bad one.

They may ask judgmental questions about your relationship or job status, your wardrobe choices or — oh boy, here it comes — your politics or your religion.

But it doesn't have to spoil your dinner.

Patti Napolitano, a child and family therapist at Hope Behavioral Health, said it’s best to avoid toxic relatives who ask uncomfortable questions. Her advice: Volunteer to clean the dishes or talk with the introvert of the family.

But if you can’t hide from rude relatives, she said, you still shouldn't feel pressure to talk much.

You're just going to be a really boring person to talk to, just like reflecting [what they ask] back and not giving up a bunch of information,” she said.

It’s ok to only stay a short time, she said. Arrive 15 minutes before dinner and set an alarm for when you'd like to leave.

“You can lie," Napolitano said. "I don't encourage that as a first step, but maybe you need to and say, ‘I have another Thanksgiving I promised I'd get to’ and make an exit time.”

People should feel comfortable to do what they want over the holidays, even if it means skipping the traditional family meal, she said.

Is it a Friendsgiving? Is it with your kids? I, personally, am going out to Gatlinburg. I'm going hiking with my husband and my kids and my cousin and their kids,” said Napolitano. “It does not have to be what it was to be meaningful.”

Some people, she said, may volunteer at food pantries and enjoy a warm meal another time with close family, away from critical aunts and uncles.