Even if you’re all on the same page politically, don’t make your precious holiday time all about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. This Thanksgiving, make a conscious decision to pass the gravy and pass on the divisive talk at the dinner table.

There have been so many films made about the tension and contention that can take over a holiday celebration, and at one time or another, we’ve probably all felt like our families fit those cliches. Don’t let that ruin this opportunity to catch up and enjoy each other’s company.

Focus on Gratitude

We get so wrapped up in our busy schedules, meal prepping, and decorating that we sometimes forget that Thanksgiving is all about being grateful. If we have air in our lungs, a roof over our heads and people—albeit imperfect people—who love us, then we’re doing pretty good.

If things get a little intense, take a moment to look around the room. Think about all of the reasons to be thankful. Perhaps, you could even suggest that everyone take turns saying thanks out loud. It sounds a little old-fashioned, but there’s something to be said for heartfelt traditions.

Shut Down Politics

Ahead of the holiday, take a few minutes to craft an email to send to everyone who will be attending. Put some thought and effort into this message and explain that, while everyone’s opinions and beliefs are important and respected, you’d prefer to avoid certain topics, such as politics (and any other triggering topics).

You may have someone in your group who, despite your best efforts, insists on trying to bait others into a political conversation. If this happens, politely remind them to focus on the meaning behind Thanksgiving, and ask them to stop. Anyone who wants to debate can do it on their own time, after the gathering. 

Plan Activities

One way to keep things from going to the dark side is to have activities planned. It may seem a bit corny, and folks may be reluctant to participate at first, but chances are that everyone will get into it once the fun begins. Of course, avoid fight-inducing games like Monopoly!

Instead, have some pre-dinner things like charades, trivia, and coloring for small kids ready to set the tone. You can also get your body moving with an outdoor scavenger hunt, family football game, or Turkey Trot, if weather permits. End the evening by setting up the Christmas tree and watching a classic holiday movie.

Have a Strategy

Things can and probably will go wrong at some point. Whether it’s a missing ingredient, delayed guests, or a dog that suddenly pukes on the kitchen floor, life happens—so have a plan in place for when disaster strikes!

When you feel your own stress levels begin to climb, take a breather. Step outside or away from the chaos for a few moments and remind yourself that this will all be over in a few hours. Stay calm and breathe through the uncomfortable moments. You’ll be so much happier if you keep your cool.

Stay Positive

Even if you’re just hanging out with friends or your partner, conversations can veer towards being negative. Truth be told, even the dialogue with have with ourselves can leave a lot to be desired.

Whenever those moments strike, make a deliberate effort to turn things around by focusing on the positive. Compliment someone’s scarf or bring up someone’s recent accomplishment. It can be hard, but we can usually find something good in every situation—we just have to try.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!