Your Essential 2016 Thanksgiving Survival Kit Guide

16727213 - one turkey crossing a street to reach a meadow

Why did the turkey cross the road? To get away from its dysfunctional family.

HOLIDAYS CAN BE A DIFFICULT TIME because things we ignore all year can rise to the surface, forcing us to confront them. There’s something about food, extended family, and time off that flips a switch. Secrets come out, things previously left unsaid are spewed, and layers are peeled back, revealing truths we might not want to face. This year, the holidays are even more unpredictable for some, and anxiety-inducing for others. We can hope the tryptophan strikes before the political TKO, but just in case, here’s what you need to pack in your Thanksgiving Survival Kit:

Mobile Data

Whether you’re having dinner at your grandparents’ house, or someone decided you should all hang out in your cousin’s new apartment, sometimes internet service is not dependable. That’s not a risk we should be taking right now. The internet could save you — and everyone else — from uncomfortable conversations. You could use it to play music, funny podcasts, or games like HeadsUp. Yes, this is all about distraction.

Dependable Cousin

There’s always at least one person you can count on to be on your side, isn’t there? Talk to that cousin. Devise a plan. Between the two of you, you should be able to subdue zealots and on-board other family members. At the very least, there’s someone to cover for you, go for a long walk down the street, and insist that you don’t have the right flavor ice cream, so the two of you can escape to the grocery store. Someone needs to hold the space in line while the other grabs the ice cream, right?

Noise-canceling Headphones

You can’t control everything and everyone around you, but you can create a safe environment for yourself. Load your mobile device up with feel-good music, epic YouTube videos, and audiobooks. The radio can’t be trusted right now, so curate your experience ahead of time.

Internet Challenges

Give your family something to get loud and enthusiastic about. Participate in an internet challenge. #UNameItChallenge and #MannequinChallenge have taken over Facebook, and they will be going strong all week. Focus their attention on clever lyrics and near-impossible poses to be captured, share, and re-watched for years to come.


Set a theme for the day. Draft a list of rules to suit your fancy, and circulate to as many people as possible ahead of time. Get your younger relatives, favorite aunt, and the cool senior citizen on board first. They can help convince everyone else that this is a great idea. The rules could be as simple as not using certain words, or roleplaying for a few hours. One idea is to pretend it’s another year, and not reference anything that happened since then. As incentive, visit a dollar store to grab a few prizes for the best participants.


Are your folks competitive? Pack a few games that can keep them going for a while. Games like Taboo encourage teamwork and limit overall talking. Others, like Cranium, can accommodate four teams and probably have a smaller chance of getting political. Steer away from games like Dominoes that leave a lot of room for random chatter that’s likely to escalate.


This one will take some assertiveness, but can really keep things moving. If politics is bound to be part of the dinner table talk, put a limit on it. You can limit each participant, or you can limit each topic.

Table Topics

A popular part of Toastmasters meetings, this could come in handy. Come up with a few agreeable topics for discussion, write them on strips of paper, and put them all in a container. Have each guest select a topic from the container. They are then charged with talking about that topic for a specific period of time. You can play with this idea to create new games, too. Maybe they each have to keep these topics in mind throughout dinner, and bring them up at every opportunity. For example, if you have candy and someone else is talking about the desert, it’s your job to make candy relevant. You could, for example, say that candy would be on your list of five things you take with you to the desert.

Meditation App

There are quite a few meditation apps, many of them free. Do a little research and find the one suits you best. When things get out of control, remember that you can leave. Go to the bathroom, sit in a closet, retreat to the other side of the house, or sit outside. Give yourself time to just be, and let the app help you to calm down and find peace.

From being a distraction to distracting yourself, there are lots of ways to get through Thanskgiving this year. Sure, we may all have family members and friends who have disappointed us with their votes, their social media posts, and their values, but we don’t have to fight about them when we get together in the spirit of gratitude.