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Need help navigating tough family conversations on Thanksgiving? Here are some tips

This photo shows mashed potatoes with parmesan cheese in Concord, NH. A small amount of Parmesan cheese adds earthiness and nuttiness to the classic smooth, creamy potatoes, and turns a traditional side into something inspired with no extra work. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Matthew Mead
Thanksgiving is often focused on the food, but considering the trajectory of potentially hard conversations before a big gathering could be helpful, according to Dr. Wes Crenshaw, a family psychologist based in Lawrence.

Holiday gatherings are joyful for many, but for some, they can be contentious or difficult. Dr. Wes Crenshaw, a family psychologist in Lawrence, weighs in on how to deal with heated discussions and awkward questions at the dinner table.

Cooking turkey, making sides and setting the table are likely already on your to-do list for Thanksgiving dinner. But preparing emotionally to gather with family might also be beneficial.

For many families, a more divided world means holidays can be fraught with strong disagreement.

Dr. Wes Crenshaw, a family psychologist based in Lawrence, Kansas, said that these days, simply agreeing to not talk about politics doesn't work very well. Instead, it may help alleviate tensions at the dinner table to set aside a specific space in the home or an alternative time to debate issues — whether it's the upcoming presidential election or the Israel-Hamas war.

Crenshaw also said thinking through potential responses to provocative statements ahead of time could help.

"You will be kind of surprised at how much more ready you are to have that (conversation)," Crenshaw said.

  • Dr. Wes Crenshaw, family psychologist based in Lawrence
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