Inclusive Thanksgiving Tips
No matter what the challenges are, set in your mind that it won't overshadow the festivities. Whether you want to help out in the kitchen preparing the day's meal or simply share time with family you haven't seen in a forever, there are several places where careful thought can alleviate bad feelings.
Afraid to tackle turkey? There's always having your Thanksgiving Day turkey delivered by a caterer or going to a restaurant for your Thanksgiving meal.If neither of these options seems palatable, there are other ways to make preparing things less worrisome on you and your guests, from preparation shortcuts to turning the meal into a potluck or making kitchen time an opportunity to bond as a family pitching in all together. Get those kids in the act of cleaning veggies, stirring gravy or sorting and measuring ingredients!
My family loves potatoes and good gravy. I hate peeling potatoes worse than anything with my carpal tunnel. Why not try using instant mashed potatoes? I know, I know. Potatoes in a box, but it's not that bad. There's a product out there that cuts out the peeling, slicing and dicing time for you so you can focus on warming the pre-peeled and cut potatoes, adding cream and butter and then mashing the spuds to your liking. When it comes to the gravy, try a can of turkey gravy or a mix. I'm a little spice monkey anyway. No matter how pre-done an item is, I always add a little of this or that to make it my own. No one ever knows.
Does dessert send you into a tail spin? I hate baking. Visit a local bakery and purchase your Thanksgiving pies or get your Aunt Opal to bring her famous "whatever" and sit it front and center on the table. If you prefer making your own sweet treats, focus on pudding, cream-based or no-bake desserts usually with minimal preparation. Do what I've done and focus your energy in dressing the end product up to give a beautiful, homemade touch with great meringue or whipped cream, a dusting of cocoa or powdered sugar in a nice pattern. Now there's some extra love!
Central to Thanksgiving is gathering with your friends and family, many of whom you may not have seen in a while. Is it your family's tradition to do things larger than life? If you’re in a wheelchair or have a mobility impairment, this can sometimes be difficult or even impossible because Cousin Janice's house has steps, narrow doors and the rooms are small with everyone crammed together.
Ask around and find out which family member has the most accessible home and have them measure their doorways and express what your needs are. Ask if they are willing to host the dinner this year. Explain to the family members who may be hurt why you didn't have them host it. If you have an accessible home, why not have the family over to your house for the turkey and dressing?
Before you feel like accommodating every need is going to be a nightmare, figure out how to eliminate the negatives completely. Be aware of seating plans so that those who need more open area to sit can do so and those who love to stand around and mingle can more easily buzz around between bites. Sit the children who get along together in one cluster and ask the older children if they would mind floating between the adults' table and the children to help out.
Worried about your mother-in-law's diabetic restrictions? Explore the options for tasty, dietary-friendly options in sugar-free desserts or gluten-free options for those who don't eat bread or potatoes. Those who have dietary restrictions can have several choices of plates made up in advance that they can choose from while sitting with the whole group. Or, if a relative loves to cook, ask them to bring that traditional dish with their healthy spin so everyone can sample how good it is.
Those who have sensory issues with a lot of noise and the clang of utensils might enjoy plastic, noise-free flatware. Do it for everyone by purchasing economical and colorful options from a party center and then you don't have dishes because it's all disposable! I have friends with autism and attention deficit disorder, as well as hyperactivity. Give them the freedom to wear their headphones with music or your younger cousins the option to listen to their favorite stories so they are still a part of the day, but aren't overstimulated and get restless. Explain to others the situation beforehand so they don't feel like they are being ignored or tuned out.
Is your grandmother blind or hearing impaired? Be patient with her and maybe see if one of the older children in your family or another relative wouldn't mind making it their mission to be Grandma's maitre'd by offering an arm to walk her to the table or act as a buffet escort helping her get her plate prepared.
And with all the conversations flying over the top of the turkey, make time for icebreaker activities over dinner such as going around the table and expressing one thing you are grateful for on this day. This ensures everyone is included, spoken to and heard. You might even consider going around the table sharing three things that are new in each person's life since you got together last. There may be a new job, new significant other or educational opportunity that has come up. Thanksgiving dinner isn't just about eating. Share!
If you can't host your family's Thanksgiving dinner at another's home, each family could enjoy their own separate meals at lunch. Later, have everyone over for dessert or coffee and enjoy the game. They could bring their leftovers and you could all enjoy a more relaxed Thanksgiving supper together. Or, if it's easier, some restaurants are open for a Thanksgiving meal. Let someone else worry about the dishes. When my parents have been in ailing health in years past, this has been a much easier option and we still spent a great time together.
With a little planning, the stress that can sometimes overshadow a typical wonderful Thanksgiving dinner can be minimized and the day more joyful and all-inclusive instead of a day to cry over. You'll not only be thankful you anticipated various challenges, but your guests will be grateful they were included and appreciated.
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This content was written by Monica J. Foster. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Christina Dietrich for details.