How to Survive Thanksgiving with Difficult Family Members: Use these 5 Easy Tips | EU 4022 min read

November 23, 2020

Do you have that one family member that you dread having to invite to Thanksgiving? Are there ways around this? How can you navigate this tumultuous situation in the best way possible, while sticking to your boundaries? In this podcast episode, Veronica Cisneros speaks about how to survive Thanksgiving with difficult family members. In This […]

how to set boundaries with parents & in-laws
how to stop fighting with your husband
How to Deal with an Emotionally Unavailable Husband
Now Trending:
I'm veronica!

I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, marriage coach, course creator, retreat host, mother of 3, married for 23 years and host of the Empowered and Unapologetic podcast. 


Reconnect with Your Partner

tell me more

On-demand two hour workshop and workbook to bring your stale relationship back to life!

Do you have that one family member that you dread having to invite to Thanksgiving? Are there ways around this? How can you navigate this tumultuous situation in the best way possible, while sticking to your boundaries?

In this podcast episode, Veronica Cisneros speaks about how to survive Thanksgiving with difficult family members.

In This Podcast


  1. It’s time to have an uncomfortable conversation
  2. You do not have to invite them
  3. Set a boundary
  4. Call for backup
  5. Acknowledge that you have zero control over others

1. It’s time to have an uncomfortable conversation

Call them prior to inviting them, have an idea of what you want to say and practice saying it as you would over the phone. What is your intention? Do not try to change them. What is the ultimate goal, what do you want them to know?

If the problem is the vibe they give off, engage them in sincere conversation and enquire about what is going on for them. Listen to understand instead of becoming combative. This is the first step to changing how your holidays look and play out.

If they hang up, let it be. Your job is not to fix people.

2. You do not have to invite them

You really do not have to. Everyone notices you are not happy, it is already out there. Imagine enjoying the celebration without skirting around someone, imagine your home filled with joy and peace. You are in charge of who is and is not invited to your house.

3. Set a boundary

Boundaries are how we tell others how to behave around us, what we are okay with, and what we are not okay with. Make a list of things that you are not okay with, and work to set that boundary around those things. Write down house rules for your guests before they arrive, and make sure that they know what they are because no one can read minds, you need to communicate your boundaries.

4. Call for backup

Bring your spouse on board to help you navigate rough holiday waters, decide who is going to handle the situation if it gets out of hand. Have a game plan in place so that you and your spouse know how to handle the situation in case anything crazy happens.

5. Acknowledge that you have zero control over others

You have no control over how others act, the only person’s actions that you can control are your own. Notice how this person reacts; do they over-or underreact to tough situations? And also self-reflect on your own behavior: how are you in times of conflict?

The choice is yours because you get to decide whether you enjoy this holiday or not.

Useful links:

Meet Veronica Cisneros

Veronica Cisneros | Empowered And Unapologetic PodcastI’m a licensed therapist and women walk into my office every day stressed and disconnected. As a mom of three daughters, I want my girls to know who they are and feel confident about their future. I can’t think of a better way to help other women than by demonstrating an empowered and unapologetic life.

So I started  Empowered and Unapologetic to be a safe space for women to be vulnerable and change their lives for the better before she ever needs to see a therapist.

Whether you listen to the podcast, join the free Facebook communityjoin the VIP community, or attend our annual retreat,  you’re in the right place. Let’s do this together!

Thanks for listening!

Podcast Transcription

Empowered and Unapologetic is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a family of podcasts that changed the world. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Imperfect Thriving, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.

Have you ever thought, how did I manage to lose myself? Being a mom is so hard, especially when we’re feeling stressed and disconnected. We exhaust ourselves trying to create this perfect life for our family. You deserve to enjoy your marriage and your kids, without the stress perfectionism brings. I am going to teach you how to identify who you are, outside of all of the roles you play.

Hi, I’m Veronica Cisneros. I’m a wife, mother of three, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I am on a mission to teach women just like you how to become empowered and unapologetic. Welcome to our girl gang.

Oh, please, Dear God, please, please, please tell me you didn’t invite her. Oh, my God, you did? Why would you invite her to Thanksgiving? Every single Thanksgiving, you know she’s gonna cause a fight. You know she’s gonna come in here with her fake smile, with her judgments about who we are, how we parent, what our house looks like, how there’re dishes in the sink, how the food doesn’t taste good and missing salt, and how she could have done it better. However, she never brings anything ever or contributes or helps or I mean, dang wash a dish. She does none of those things. In addition to that, she just lets her kids run around crazy, jumping on our furniture, doing all of these things that we know damn well, we wouldn’t let our own kids do. But yet, we allow her.

Why do we allow her to do it? Because that’s right. Nobody wants to confront her. Nobody wants to talk to her. And yet she’s this ticking time bomb that we all are attempting to go ahead and save. Why? Why do we do this every single year? And then in addition to that, she makes all of these inappropriate comments, all of them. I mean, yeah, I get it. You know, she’s part of the family. And yeah, I get it. You know, it’s rude if we didn’t invite her. And more than likely she’d probably be alone. But can we take the invitation back now? What if we don’t mention it? What if we don’t say anything at all? Hell, what if we don’t reply to her text messages? Do you think we’re off the hook? No, no, I didn’t think so. So this means that we’re going to have to have her here. Oh my God, I dread. I dread Thanksgiving.

Ladies, we all have that one family member no one wants to invite. You know that family member that is a ticking time bomb, complains about everything but doesn’t help. The one who will talk smack behind your back, then give you the biggest smile when you make eye contact? Yeah, that one, that difficult family member you wish you would have never invited? In my last VIP coaching call we discussed this exact issue. Across the board, the entire group voted that difficult family members are the hardest thing during holidays. It’s the biggest issue. And it’s the biggest issue because no one wants to create conflict during the holidays. I don’t want to be that one person that’s not nice. I don’t want to be that one person that didn’t invite her. I don’t want to be that one person that had a conversation that didn’t go well. And I have to go ahead and tell everybody the story so everybody else sees that I’m this nice person, this nice loving person that just wants peace.

Well, ladies, here’s the problem. We ignore the elephant in the room, and nothing changes, the relationship stays the same. And now you’re walking on eggshells the entire time, great Thanksgiving, doing your best to avoid them. And more importantly, you’re not enjoying yourself. You’re not enjoying yourself at all. If anything, you’re attempting to avoid it all together. And so guess what? Here goes another year, missed. Left with the memory of avoidance. There’s not a shot of tequila that is going to save you. So why do you do this to yourself? Yeah, you know, I’m gonna put you on blast. Here it goes. Here’s what you don’t realize. This issue will not resolve itself over time. Matter of fact, if anything it’s gonna get worse. Think about it. How many years have you gone so far having this uncomfortable, unsettling, nerve wracking, irritating, frustrating, oh my god, I’m getting it already, like it’s happening to me, this just crap of a holiday because of one person?

Well, I’m gonna tell you right now you’re not the only one. I’ve had those too, I’ve had quite a bit, for a long time, because I didn’t know that I can change it, I had no clue that this problem, had no clue that this problem would take over. And it did. And sure this is one family member that I only see during the holidays. But those are, for me, those are the most important times. That’s when most of our memories are created. Here I am, avoiding this one person, trying not to set them off. And the entire time, resenting them, they didn’t even know it. I can’t tell you how many times my kids would walk up to me and say, Mom, is everything okay? And I would immediately tell them, yeah, everything’s fine. Mom, no, for real, is everything okay? Yes, everything’s fine. And then I would snap at them, I would snap at these poor kids just because I couldn’t get it together. Because I wanted to avoid conflict, because I don’t want to be judged. Because I couldn’t have a healthy conversation.

The effects completely repeated themselves over and over every single year it was this dysfunctional cycle. Unhealthy relationship over and over and over again. I get it, most of us don’t care, right? We go into you know, I don’t even care. They’re gonna be there. No biggie. I don’t care about them. I don’t even like them. And I’m happy when they leave. Well, let me ask you this. What did you compromise? Think about it. What did you compromise by allowing them in your home? More importantly, what did you lose? Let me help you. It’s another holiday you did not enjoy. It’s another holiday everyone else enjoyed except for you. More than likely, the minute your other family members found out this person was invited, the others declined your invitation. And they declined it because they decided to set a boundary, they actually put themselves first. There’s nothing wrong or rude about it. It’s just what it is.

So let me ask you something. Why haven’t you? Why do you compromise yourself every single year to make this one person happy? What if it could be different? It’s impacting your life because you’re attempting to have others perceive you as this kind person that avoids conflict. Girl, let’s talk about the lies you tell yourself. I don’t doubt you’re a kind person. But what if you are a kind person with boundaries? Think about it when I say that. But if you’re a kind person with boundaries? How would your kids see you? Would your kids fall into the same trap? Hell no. You want to know why? Because you’d be able to model something different, which is the absolute goal, we want to model something different. We don’t want our lives impacted by this by any means. And so I’m about to give you five options to help. Grab a pen and paper because girl, you know you’re gonna want to take notes.

So here we go. Option one, it’s time to have that uncomfortable conversation. I already hear you saying, girl, you don’t even know her or you don’t know him. You don’t understand. We have to invite him. There’s no other way. You don’t understand. It’s just one time. Fine. I’ll suck it up. It’s no biggie. Girl, I’m gonna call you out. No, it’s time to have the uncomfortable conversation. I know you’ve attempted to avoid this. And I know more than likely you’ve attempted to have a healthy conversation in the past that didn’t go well. So here we go. I’m going to teach you how. Call them prior to inviting them, have an idea of what you want to say and practice prior to making that call. What is your intention? Is your intention to go in and manipulate them to change them because girl, Ima tell you right now, if you go in that route, you’re gonna fail, and you’re gonna fail because it’s not gonna work. You can’t change somebody. You can try to manipulate them with words, but that’s not going to work either.

What is the ultimate goal? What do you want them to know? And in addition, are you willing to hear their side? And this isn’t where you’re going in and saying, girl okay, so this is what it looks like. Every single year you come, we all walk on eggshells. We don’t like you. And in addition to that, the stuffing didn’t need any more salt, and if you didn’t like it, you should have brought your own damn stuffing. Okay, that right there is going to be met fire with fire. That’s not the conversation we’re gonna have. Instead, I want you to think about what is it? What is it overall? Are you asking to call for help, are you asking to call for support? Or is it just the vibe? Because if it’s the vibe, then this is where we ask, hey, you know, Thanksgivings coming up. And I noticed every single year, you’re on edge. I don’t know if this is me, or maybe the way I perceive it but I want to understand, because I want to make sure that this holiday is amazing for all of us. You inquired about something, and guess what the other person on the other line might be combative. And if that’s where they’re at, that’s not for you to diffuse. Again, we’re looking to understand when we have a conversation with somebody, so what is it? What is it that it’s so important for you to understand in the conversation? Because fighting fire with fire is not going to work. And if they end up hanging up on you, so be it. Hell, they’re not at, they’re not going to be at Thanksgiving. But at least you started to open up this level of dialogue, right? And you opened up this conversation, so that they’re aware that it is impacting you. And this is the route to go ahead and change it. This is where you change the way your holidays look, which is really, really important.

More than likely, though, they might say what’s really going on. Maybe they lost somebody, maybe holidays are rough. It’s not for you to be the therapist, again, you’re listening to understand. How can you guys work together? Or better yet, how can they feel better understood? Because if they’re on edge, something’s going on with them. And again, it’s not for you to fix. We’re trying to understand what this is, and maybe they have somebody every single year that pokes fun at them. You want to understand what their place is, not fix it. And I’m going to tell you right now, if they hung up, let that be. When they’re ready, they will call you. And if they don’t, that’s okay, too. Your job is not to fix people.

Option number two, don’t invite them. I can already hear you say, but Veronica, then I will look like the bad guy. But Veronica, you don’t understand. This is my, you know, my brother’s girlfriend or Veronica, you don’t understand, and if, you know, if she doesn’t come he doesn’t come, or Veronica, you don’t understand, this is my stepson, or my daughter, or my daughter’s husband, you don’t understand. I have to invite them. No, you don’t. Girl, no, you don’t. Everyone notices that you’re avoiding that guest and you’re avoiding them like the plague. It’s already happening. Besides, imagine how stress free this day will be for you. Imagine having a house full of the guests that you love and enjoy being around. Imagine a day of complete gratitude and peace. You can actually have that. This is a decision you get to make. Of course, I want you to have this conversation with your husband. But I want you to think about it. You are essentially in charge of who is invited and who is not invited to your house.

Option number three, set a boundary. Boundaries are lifesavers, when you respect them, guess what, other people have to respect them. Boundaries are when we tell others how to behave around us. What we are okay with and what we are not okay with. So I want you right now, as you’re listening to this podcast, I want you to create a list. What are the things that you’re not okay with? What are things that completely frustrates you? And I want you to start to set them. So if it’s people that come to your house and not bring anything, guess what, girl, the minute you send out the invitation, you’re gonna go ahead and ask for items. That’s what I did. That’s exactly what I did. I made a list on my Notes app. And they have this little bit of like this Excel spreadsheet. So what I did was, I had a column for people, like who was gonna bring what, or a name column, that’s easier. I had a name column. And then to the right of that I had all the items I wanted. All of the items I wanted. Just because I’m hosting it doesn’t mean I have to do everything.

And yes, those kids are going to be doing dishes. I’m not doing dishes, I’m not going to do any dish. So what I did was, I created all the items that I wanted for Thanksgiving. You know, I wanted Turkey, I wanted cornbread, I wanted ham, stuffing, candied yams, every single meal item that I wanted. And then I immediately wrote down all of the things that I was going to make, me and my husband were going to make, me and my husband had a conversation, what are the things that we want to make? What are the things that we want to go ahead and be in charge of? So wrote our names on all those things, and then I sent a group text to everybody else. I’m telling you right now. That entire list is completely full and filled. So exactly what we want is what we’re going to have on Thanksgiving. And in addition to that, my family members, I left empty slots, if they wanted to go ahead and bring anything else, they filled those too. So this Thanksgiving is gonna be amazing, because I’m setting it that way. It was a boundary that I initially set, this is what I want.

You might want to do that with house rules, what are your house rules? Write those down before your guests come in. And make sure you communicate it, they cannot read your mind. Nobody can read your mind. What are your house rules? Nobody’s allowed on the furniture, period. Please make sure you attend to your kids, or you attend to your kids, make sure that you’re on them about jumping on our furniture. In the past, we’ve had this and we want to go ahead and put a stop to this. You know, in addition to that, everybody has to bring something. If you’re unable to bring something due to financial issues, that’s no problem. You know, maybe you can help us in the kitchen. Can we assign you a task? What task? And then you would have that conversation privately. But these are just some ideas, because I’m going to tell you right now, holidays are amazing. And at the same time, they can be rough.

Option number four, girl, call for backup. Have a discussion with your husband. What are you both willing to tolerate? Devise a plan and stick to it. Who’s going to be in charge of handling the situation if it gets out of hand? It’s not one of those things where you go 123, not it. I’m gonna tell you right now I’ve tried it, hasn’t worked because my husband gave me crazy eyes. And now he and I are arguing about kicking out a guess, not necessarily kicking out a guest, but trying to go ahead and say something to them so they get it. Now we’re both on the same page. We both know what’s okay, what’s not okay. And in addition to that, we already have identified who’s going to go and talk to them. Hey, you know what, that was out of line, can you please take it down? And usually, our family members are good with it. No, okay. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. You know, other times, we’ve had one time where it didn’t go down the way we wanted to. And that was okay because what ended up happening is the person ends up leaving, which was even better, because on top of that, that person was starting to get out of hand. And they left with the designated driver, but they did leave. And I’m going to tell you right now, one of the best holidays ever.

Option number five, acknowledge you have zero control over others. Wait a minute, Veronica, you just gave me all these options. And now you’re telling me I don’t have control over everybody? Yeah, yep, that’s exactly what I’m saying. We all react differently to being triggered. Some of us overreact while others shut down. I want you to pay attention to what type of person this is. Do they overreact or do they shut down? And now I want you to go ahead and do a little bit of self reflection. How are you in times of conflict? Do you overreact or do you shut down? And what is it that helps you? If you realize you have zero control over others, well, now you’re not trying to manipulate them to do what you want them to do?. You’re able to have a genuine open conversation, if you choose to. If not, girl, I’m gonna tell you right now you’re going to continue repeating those unhealthy habits. And that’s what we’re attempting to avoid.

Remember, the choice is yours. You get to decide whether you will enjoy this holiday or not. I get it. It’s not easy. I understand it, girl, I feel you. However, do you want it to go down the same way it always goes down? Walking on eggshells, fake smiles, no real true conversations, or do you want there to be love? Do you want there to be moments of gratitude? Do you want there to be moments where you’re all laughing together and everybody is unified? Because I’m gonna tell you right now, that’s how I’m having my Thanksgiving.

Alright, ladies, I want you to go ahead and let me know how this went. Apply one of the coping skills that I provided you and make sure, make sure you comment in our private, free Facebook group. If you haven’t joined already, I want you, I’m personally inviting you right now, to join the private Facebook group. It’s a group full of women just like you that are going to be posting about the same thing. In addition to that, I absolutely love, love, love seeing photos. So I want a little bit of a selfie. I want you in it because I’m entire right now most of the time we’re not in any of the holiday pictures. That’s how it used to go down in my house. Now I have my husband following me around like paparazzi, okay, I’m kidding. But what I want you to do is I want you to take a selfie with your family members. And I want this to be fun. So go out there, enjoy it. Because you are very, very blessed. You have this opportunity to go ahead and spend time with your family, all of it, as long as you’re willing to go ahead and set some healthy boundaries. Bye for now.

What’s up, ladies? Just want to let you guys know that your ratings and reviews for this podcast are greatly appreciated. If you love this podcast, please go to iTunes right now and rate and review. Thank you, guys.

Many women lose their own identity in the shadow of being a mom and a wife. We are a community of women who support each other. We leave perfectionism behind to become empowered and unapologetic. I know you’re ready for the next steps. If you want to become empowered and unapologetic, get my free course, Unapologetically Me over at empoweredandunapologetic.com/course.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests, are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

Did you enjoy this podcast? Feel free to share this podcast on social media! You can also leave a review of the Empowered and Unapologetic Podcast on iTunes and subscribe!

Empowered and Unapologetic is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you thrive, imperfectly. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom Podcast, Imperfect Thriving, or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I’m Veronica, your new Boss MOM Mentor with no filter and no BS. 

I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, women’s coach, course creator, and retreat host. Married for OVER 20 years, raising three girls, and the host of the Empowered and Unapologetic podcast. 

Enough about me… 

My jam? Helping high-achieving women thrive both at home and in the hustle of work.

I've been there.

How To Deal with a Negative Husband

get it now


How To Work Through Resentment

read it

free download

 Top Resources

How To Stop Fighting with Your Husband

get it now


Setting Boundaries with Parents and In-laws

read it

free download

5 Things That Are Killing Your Marriage

In this guide, I'll share the simple strategies that help my clients go from feeling like roommates to reigniting their relationship and falling in love again.   


Free guide

5 Things Killing Your Marriage

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Marriage Coach, Course Creator, Retreat Host, Mother of 3, Married for over 20 years.

veronica cisneros

© veronica cisneros 2022




instagram >

follow along 
on Instagram: