For most of us, the Thanksgiving holiday will look different this year. You may have to celebrate virtually with family, budget differently due to finances, or modify your usual get togethers to an outdoor and smaller setting. While in any normal year the Thanksgiving holiday can be loaded with mixed feelings, this year may bring even more emotions. Often it is a time we reflect on past holidays, memories of people who may no longer be with us, and expectations about what the holiday should look like that do not always come through.

This year, specifically, brings added stressors of the pandemic, economic uncertainty and a heated political climate that may complicate the holiday. Navigating how to celebrate with loved ones in a safe manner may bring up differences of opinions or doubt about the proper way to handle the festivities.

Additionally, if you are gathering with family and friends, there may be a difference of feelings that can cause conflict and uncomfortable interactions.  This is a time to be thankful for what we have, and not the time to try to change someone’s opinion.

When there is conflict within a family it is important to emotionally step back from the situation and remind yourself of the common bond of family and shared history. See if you can find a fond memory to bond over. The goal should be to create a peaceful environment so that you can enjoy the holiday in the best way possible.

Do not be afraid to set your own boundaries. Decide ahead of time what is important to you and let that be your guide. If you feel strongly about something, then be prepared to speak up and advocate for yourself or remove yourself from the situation if needed. These are highly charged times and if we can be the ones to bring some reason and set some boundaries, we are helping everyone involved.

If someone is not able to respect your wishes or even meet in the middle, then prepare yourself ahead of time with how you will handle the situation. Practice telling them that you do not want to talk about those topics. Thinking these situations through ahead of time will make them less stressful in the moment because you will have prepared how you want to handle them.

Most importantly, allow yourself to use this time to reflect on all the good in your life. There are always things we can be grateful for, even if sometimes we must search a little harder for them. There is no better time to sit back and reflect on the good then during a difficult time. It provides a backdrop with which to reframe our thoughts and emotions.

Think of one person in your support system you appreciate and value. Then think of one thing in your living situation you particularly like or are proud of. Now reflect on one thing from your past that you enjoy remembering and one thing in your future that you look forward to.

This year’s Thanksgiving may not look like past years in some ways, but the theme of gratefulness and appreciation can always be woven into your day.


Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at






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