With Thanksgiving a few days away, everyone is gearing up for family gatherings and good eating.  Whether there are just a few of you or you are having a family reunion around the table, it is important to enjoy the time together for this holiday meal.  Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help make sure the holiday is a happy one:

DO encourage your children to help with holiday prep.  If you are hosting, they can help with a preparing a dish, or setting the table.  If you are going somewhere else for dinner, they can help decide what you will bring and help make it (if it is homemade) or help pick it out.  Including them in the process helps them understand all that goes into creating this special day.  If they are not willing participants, then assign them a responsibility.

DO provide some fun activities at the table for the younger set.  Paper and crayons or some kind of arts and craft project can keep them happily occupied while the adults chat after dinner.  Having them in the room, soaking up the traditions of the day beats sending them off to another room to play as soon as they finish their meal.  I did this last Thanksgiving and was delighted to see some of the young adults join the kids for some serious coloring and arts and crafts.

DON’T forget to have a “device plan” for the dinner table.  Thanksgiving dinner is not the time for everyone to be immersed in their IG accounts or texting friends.    You could ban devices, (if  you can get the adults to agree), or you could agree that devices will only be used to support or further dinner table conversation.   My family uses them at family dinners to look up things related to what we are talking about.  If you are tempted to allow the younger ones to use devices to keep them quiet, opt instead for the fun activities described above.

DO encourage full table conversations.  If your family is so inclined, you can go around the room and ask people to what they are grateful for.  (This would induce groans and massive eye rolling around some tables, and would be eagerly answered around others.  Know your audience.)

DON’T encourage full table conversations about subjects that you know will be controversial.  Hot topics are tough enough when everyone hasn’t been eating and drinking all afternoon/evening, so save them for another day.  You are eating comfort food, so everyone might as well stay comfortable doing so.

DON’T discuss things at the table that would embarrass or humiliate family members. Try to think of their likely reaction versus how you think they should react.  If your very shy son has some great accomplishment you think the family should know, check with him quietly ahead of time to make sure it is ok to bring up at the table.  If he says no, you can tell your family at some other point in the day, when it will not make him uncomfortably the center of all the attention.

DO encourage the elders around the table to reminisce about the good old days and tell family stories (the non controversial ones, of course–this is not the time to talk about Junior’s time in solitary confinement).  This will give your children the chance to hear interesting info about their family that might otherwise be hard to come by.

DO be sure to take some time to relax and enjoy everyone’s company.  Especially if you are hosting, which is hard work.  A day devoted to being with family and friends and good food is certainly something to be thankful for.

DO share your best Thanksgiving family dinner ideas with us!  Have a Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!!