The holidays are all about family: cookouts on the Fourth of July, gift exchanges at Christmas, brunch at Easter. But if there is one holiday that screams “family together time” more than any other, it’s Thanksgiving.
But that whole family thing can be tricky to navigate when you’re a recent addition to the family by marriage. After all, this may be your first big meal with your spouse’s family since the wedding. But untold hosts of newlyweds have managed their first Thanksgiving, and you can too with our tips for surviving your first Thanksgiving with the in-laws.
Know Your Audience
Every family has a different flavor. Some are laid back, while others are very formal. Chances are, the flavor of your spouse’s family is different than yours. This is especially true if they come from a different culture or heritage.
Be sure to do your research before Turkey Day to know what you are getting yourself into. Ask your spouse about expectations for a family holiday, any topics you should steer clear of, and any names that you should be aware of.
Dress the Part
In the 2014 spy movie Kingsman Secret Service, Colin Firth’s character remarks, “The suit is the modern gentleman’s armor.” While surviving Thanksgiving with your in-laws isn’t usually as intense as an elite spy going on a mission, there is something to be said about how your clothes can boost your confidence.
Keep the family’s flavor in mind. If they’re formal, try to dress to the nines. Even if they aren’t, it’s a good idea to wear something that you genuinely feel good wearing. Add that trendy fall hat you just bought to your ensemble. Wear that elegant sweater. Wearing something you like will help you feel more comfortable in your own skin.
Lend a Hand
It’s hard to dislike someone when they’re doing something nice for you. So it’s a good idea to make up your mind to be as helpful as possible before even arriving at the door. Here are some ways you can lend your in-laws a helping hand:
- Bring a dish to pass
- Ask if you can help in the kitchen when you arrive
- Offer to do a last-minute grocery run
- Take the time to sit with elderly or infirm family members
- Help with the dishes
Trying to help out shows your in-laws that you are invested in and care about their family like it’s your own while giving you a perfect opportunity to get to know them better.
Choose Your Table Topics Carefully
Dinner table conversation is always one of the toughest places to navigate for a newlywed. One of the easiest ways to keep things civil, especially as someone new to the family, is to avoid these topics:
- Bodily fluids
- Sexual topics
When in doubt, keep in mind that it’s always better to be quick to listen than to speak. Answer questions and offer statements when asked, but use your first Thanksgiving dinner as a chance to take in everything about your new family.