The Scooby Gang at the Thanksgiving Table in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4 episode Pangs
(The WB)

These Are the Tips You Need To Deal With Terrible Family This Thanksgiving

This is a joke. But it’s one we need right now.

Everyone knows how difficult family can be during the holidays. Leslie Jones recently shared her methods for dealing with unruly guests on The Daily Show, and in keeping with that same spirit, here are our methods for dealing with toxic family this Thanksgiving.

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I should let you know up front that this article is mostly a joke; your mileage may vary with how effective these techniques are. If you are in a genuinely abusive/toxic situation, seek professional counseling to determine the best course of action for yourself.

Have a racism/politics jar

Homer Simpson struggling to lift and carry a jar of pennies

We all have family members who seem determined to say something racist or bring up some political hot take that is bound to ruffle feathers or perpetuate falsehoods. Thus, we suggest instituting a “Racism/Politics Jar.” Much like a swear jar, guests will put in a dollar for every time they bring up politics or say something racist. Whoever contributes the least to the jar by the end of the night gets to keep the money. This can also be expanded to other “forbidden topics.” You’ll have to let people know ahead of time to ensure they have cash/change necessary, but it can hopefully curb some of the less savory topics of Thanksgiving conversation.

Use “gentle parenting’ techniques

There’s a growing trend on TikTok of parents and teachers using “gentle parenting” techniques to de-escalate situations and communicate effectively with their adult family. I will say that there is a strong possibility that the adults in question will become more frustrated due to being treated like children. However, there is also a chance that adults having a tantrum will understand and, hopefully, calm down and use their nice words to express their big feelings.

Spray bottle/water gun

Jay sprays Manny with a spray bottle in Modern Family

Alternatively, if your guests are behaving more like ornery housepets than people, a spray bottle or small water gun can be used to stop bad behavior. Just make sure that the pressure is correctly adjusted so it’s a stream and not a spray, and warn guests beforehand. “You get one warning and then I pull out the spray bottle.”

Have a designated quiet/destress area

Lolo screaming into a pillow in Lilo and Stitch.
(Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

I know not everyone has space for this, but if you have a spare bedroom, office, closet, yard, or pillow fort, having a space where people can go if they just need some peace and quiet away from the other family can be helpful to keeping everyone calm. Alternatively, if you see another family member in distress, maybe ask if they want to go for a walk to get away from the chaos.

Don’t attend

Grace smoking a cigarette after a night from hell in Ready or Not
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Sometimes you also just need to take a break from family, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some family members will be offended by your choice, but at least this way, you don’t expose yourself to the toxicity in-person.

If you do want to attend the event, make your boundaries clear from the start, and if someone crosses them, leave. Or if your family makes it clear that they have no intention of listening, take a break this year. If you’re going with a partner to see their family, give them the responsibility of curbing their family’s behavior and let them know that if they don’t respect you, you will leave.

Sometimes, not engaging is the best method of dealing with family.

What are your favorite methods of dealing with toxic family? Share them in the comments!

(featured image: The WB)

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Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.