Mental health expert shares tips on civility at Thanksgiving

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A time for family, friends and food, Thanksgiving and the holiday season can be stressful under normal circumstances. Add in the pandemic and the political climate, and this year it could be downright volatile.

“There are definitely things to be worried about and there are challenges to overcome as we gather together,” said Rikki Harris, CEO of TN Voices, a mental health advaocacy and support organization.

Harris said on Thanksgiving Day to not let anxiety and arguments come to the table along with turkey and dressing.

“We’re here together as family because we love each other and it’s not a time – especially if we already know that we have differences – it’s not a time to really highlight those differences, but to come together,” she said.

Harris suggested setting boundaries to help steer conversation away from hot button topics and be “strategic” about seating arrangements.

“If you know you have an aunt, uncle, cousin who has very different politics than you do, don’t sit right beside them. Let’s be really careful about that,” she suggested.

If those conversations do come up, be assertive and don’t feel bad about shutting down discusssions that make you uncomfortable.

“That “shutting down” potential, you know, discussions that make you uncomfortable is a great way to reduce conflict. You’re not starting conflict and somebody at the table is really going to appreciate you doing that,” said Harris.

It’s also a good idea to leave alcohol off the menu and make guests keep put their mobile devices away.

Harris said it’s important not to allow disagreements to ruin family gatherings. Thanksgiving is a good time to start focusing on what really matters.

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