Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. The fragrant aroma of cranberry sauce and stuffing permeates the air, while my family surrounds one another in different parts of the house. It is the one time besides Christmas when the majority of us are in one place together. Typically, my mother and grandmother are huddled in the kitchen either cooking or gossiping over the last celebrity scandal. The men are watching the football game on the television, along with my cousin, who was always much more of a sports fan than myself. Lastly, there were the kids. You could either watch television in another room, or you could play some imaginary game that was quiet enough not to catch the attention of the adults but entertaining enough for everyone involved.

It was only recently that I had the opportunity to evolve from the kid’s corner and hang out with the adults. Going off to college afforded me the opportunity to show just how mature I had become. However, the opportunity to have a seat at the adults table is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Being an adult is about more than drinking from sophisticated wine glasses and harping on about stimulating conversation. Adulthood includes discussing some of the hard and pressing issues of the world today and unfortunately, Thanksgiving is one of those times.

But don’t worry. Here is the ultimate guide on what topics to avoid if you want to survive Thanksgiving dinner.

Politics

If the “p” word is mentioned at any given time, then there are several ways to maneuver around the conversation or avoid having it at all.

Politics is always going to be a hot-button topic, for there are plenty of current events and election candidates to discuss. The political climate of the United States, in particular, is one worth mentioning because the stakes are so high.

However, we all know that one family member who simply takes things too far at Thanksgiving.

The last thing anyone wants is to be thrown into an argument because Uncle Stuart could not fathom your stance on abortion. Instead, you could try leveling the playing field before things get too heated. Ask questions about their perspective and allow yourself to empathize with them. You could even attempt to find common ground between ideologies.

Religion

For some households, religion might not be as much of a weighted subject as politics. There may be a mutual respect for one set religion. But if your household is anything like my own, then there are bound to be some disagreements here and there.

Religion is sacred and because of this, many of your family members may take offense to opposing ideas or criticisms of doctrine. Tread lightly where those members are concerned, but there is no reason why you should not be able to identify with whatever religion you wish to if asked about it.

You could also opt for telling a little white lie, but I am not too sure what my philosophy professor would think about that.

Sex and Relationships

You may not be able to skate around the subject of relationships, but there are definitely clever ways to settle the infamous questions that will inevitably be thrown your way.

My personal favorite is, “When are we going to meet your boyfriend?” This is especially awkward and difficult to answer when you do not have a significant other, or you simply are not prepared to take that drastic step of introducing them to your family.

Not to mention, there might be specific situations many of you are not willing to talk about. The drama of breakups, situationships (someone has been there and done that at least once in their lifetime), sex and cheating scandals are a few examples that should not be brought up in a room full of people at dinner.

In order to effectively navigate the conversation to more acceptable topics, try nipping the conversation in the bud with a simple but straight answer. Then you can easily divert the attention from your love life to something else.

Money

Money does not only make the world go ‘round. Money can make hell break loose at the dinner table in less than 10 seconds, especially if you are not quick enough to change the subject.

I can vividly remember one Thanksgiving having to diffuse the tension between two of my family members because one had owed the other money, which is never an easy situation to deal with. It is always clear which side you should be on but in that moment, both parties were overly sensitive about the issue. It was resolved once the money was handed over, but I cannot help but think the transaction would have gone over a lot smoother if there were not a crowd of people to witness the altercation.

It’s one thing to joke about the state of the economy but an entirely different ball park when it sparks an argument between one or more members of your family. The best way to avoid diving into the subject of finances is to keep your private matters private. Unless it directly impacts the occasion, it is best to leave things be.

School and Career Aspirations

As a college student, I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked about what I intend to do with my degree. While it might not seem as intense as the other topics, it can be overwhelming to come home for break simply to be overloaded with such questions. The mere thought of the future can be difficult for many to answer if you are not aware of them yourself.

The question of grades and exams goes hand in hand. The last thing anyone wants to talk about on their vacation away from school is — you guessed it — school.

Stray away from the imposing questions by giving vague but acceptable answers. That is what they say, anyhow. Fake it until you make it.

With everything going on in the world, it can be easy to forget the importance of the holiday. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time where you can bond with your family, share what you are grateful for and stuff your face until you can’t anymore. Don’t let awkward small talk stand in the way of what truly matters: spending time with those you love.

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