You love your extended family, you really do, and the thought of all those aunts and uncles, in-laws and parents, cousins and various spouses and children warms your heart.

Until it’s time for them to descend on your home for Thanksgiving.

Even if it’s just a parent or solitary in-law or wayward cousin, having to deal with relatives you see but once or twice a year can be a trial. It seems so much easier to love them at a distance!

At a distance, you forget all about Aunt Ethel’s obnoxious eating habits, or your mother/mother-in-law’s critical comments about you, your hairdo, your children, your home, your job, your pets, your cooking, your--well, everything.

You welcome them with love and smiles into your home for the Thanksgiving feast you’ve prepared to the very best of your culinary ability, with care for each of their individual preferences, trying not to let your frantic last-minute running around show.

Here they are, and here’s the feast, and all is well.

But it doesn’t take long for Aunt Ethel’s chomping to get at you, or those critical comments to make you grit your teeth (biting back the sharp retort you long to give), nor for you to think unkind thoughts of your cousin’s new wife (a plunging neckline and leather micro-skirt? At the family Thanksgiving get-together?).

Somehow, all the thanks in Thanksgiving--the spirit of gratitude, appreciation and tolerance for one another--disappears even before the pumpkin pie is served.

Time for a shift! A shift in focus, that is. You see, anything you focus on grows. The more you allow yourself to notice your relatives’ irritating behaviors, the more unhappy you will become. The more unhappy you are, the less you are able to tune in to the spirit of Thanksgiving. Instead of a celebration of gratitude, you end up with a headache and a pissy attitude.

Shift. Think about how much Aunt Ethel loves her food. The food you so lovingly prepared. So she has horrible table manners, so? She’s having a good time, all due to you.

Your mother/mother-in-law’s critical take on the world is her problem. You like yourself as you are, along with your hairdo, your children, your home, your job, your pets, your--you get the drift. Criticism is often a misguided attempt to improve things for others so they can be happier. This is just your mother/mother-in-law’s way of loving you. Weird, I know, but again--not your problem. Let the critical comments flow off you like water off a duck. Irrelevant, no different than bad late-night talk show bla-bla. Just filler. Unimportant.

So the new wife is showing off her stuff? Who cares? It makes her happy, and certainly doesn’t mean you have to imitate her style.

Focus on what does matter: the guests who are enjoying themselves, how nicely your casserole turned out, that the table looks lovely. Focus on how grateful you are to have a family--of one, or two, or many. Focus on how good it is to be alive, and to have the goodness that exists in your life.

Focus on giving thanks, let the rest just roll on by, and you will have a Thanksgiving to be grateful for.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, relationship expert, popular speaker in the U.S. and abroad, and author of nine best-selling books. Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. Visit,