Thanksgiving Dinner Talk

Turkey Image

Thanksgiving is here and this is the perfect time to gather family stories while everyone is together.

The family is all getting together for dinner.  This presents an opportunity if you can avoid the obstacles it also presents. What obstacles? You might ask?  Well, it’s the choices we make about conversations.

There are a few things that we’ve been told aren’t “dinner table talk.” Many of us grew up in homes where there was a rule: No talking about politics, religion or money while at the table. In the wake of the 2016 election, this may be particularly difficult, especially if yours is a family that is divided along political lines. Some may still be mourning the results of the presidential election while others are celebrating. Some may be scared to death about what comes next, while others are bathing in new hope for their future.  There are some good pointers in “Don’t Let Politics Spoil Your Family Holiday” by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D..

But, politics aside, there is still the potential of verbal pitfalls over climate change, the Dakota Access Pipeline, terrorism, unemployment, fair trade versus free trade, nuclear proliferation, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, police brutality, healthcare, raising the minimum wage, the proliferation of fake news, freedom of the press, sexual assault, college tuition, affirmative action, gentrification, and the list goes on.

So what do we do?

Make this thanksgiving special by getting the stories.

There are stories of victory and triumph in your family and this is a great time to hear and record these stories. Hear how grandpa saved a life in the war.  Get the scoop on Cousin Edna’s victory over disease. Hear how Uncle Will marched for civil rights in the 1960’s and what it was like to be a part of a sit in. Imagine Auntie Mary with flowers in her hair protesting the Vietnam War. Our gathering for the holidays is so much more than that golden brown turkey and all the fixings surrounding it.  There are treasures of stories sitting around the table.  This year make an effort to draw them out.

Here are just a few ‘starter questions’ to get the ball rolling.  And as the stories start to flow, be sure to have your smartphone or some recording device ON.  You will want to capture these moments!

Starter Questions for holiday conversations.

An easy place to begin is with you!

    • Start with something like, “Hey mom, dad here’s what I remember about my pre-school years.  Is what I’ve been told about my birth and toddler years correct?”
  • Where did we live when I was little?

Then move to the older folks at the table with…

    • “How did you and Grandpa (or Grandma, or Uncle, etc.) meet?”  Further questions may be helpful as they may trigger great stories, such as, “Do you recall a best date” or “What movies did you go see.” or “What kind of car did Grandpa drive?”
  • “Can you tell me about some of the jobs that you guys (parents, grands, etc.) had when you were younger?

Finally, if these are going well and you hit a lull, try

  • “Did you guys live through any big historical event? If so, what do you recall from those days?” Now this has the potential to steer off into current events but try and keep it going down memory lane.

Happy Thanksgiving and all the best, as you gather the stories that make your family unique!


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