You are getting ready for Thanksgiving, doing the grocery shopping, wrapping gifts, and preparing the house for the guests, except you’re not even sure how many people are coming. You still have not heard if your stepkids will be with you during that time, for how long, or if they will even be there.

The kids love to come over because they get to see other family members, have fun with you, and enjoy great food. The only problem is they feel bad about leaving the other parent “alone” during that time. You suspect there is manipulation but feel that you are ready to let the kids make their own decision. It’s already hard enough on the stepchildren without making them feel worse.

Here is what you can do:

Prepare a meal that isn’t dependent on how many people come to eat. You might have to adjust your menu to make this happen. It might mean not buying that twenty pound turkey but making turkey pot pies instead. It could be that you only have a few desserts on hand rather than six or seven. In our home, we always had enough food, no matter how people came over. The freezer is stocked so that we can pop something in the oven at the last minute and enjoy our guests.

Give leftovers to a homeless shelter. OK, so you already have that twenty pound turkey, what next? If you do end up with too much food leftover, you can always bring the rest to a homeless shelter. Isn’t it what Thanksgiving is all about, giving thanks? Those who receive your generous meal will be more than grateful for you, plus you will also feel great.

Give guests a reminder call or email. Yes, it’s annoying to have to “chase” people in order to get a response. If it will make you feel better knowing how many guests will be coming over, then take care of your need to know. They may have forgotten that they had not yet responded to your invitation.

Invite more people to share in the festivities. Instead of having small get-togethers, why not have one huge gathering, maybe at a local community center, and have everyone bring their food there. If you don’t want to be in the same room as the ex, realize that if there are a lot of people, you may not even notice him/her. And if you do, you’ll be too busy to worry about it. There will be other people there to keep everyone busy.

Change the date so that others don’t feel the pressure of attending every party. There are times that we need to ask ourselves how important is that calendar date. Will the food and companionship be just as good if you bumped it up or back a day or so? Being attached that you must celebrate on a specific date makes it more challenging. Unless it’s a wedding or a graduation, where there is actually only one event, then consider celebrating on a different day so that you can enjoy those you really want to be with you.

Focus on why you come together. Yes, it’s to celebrate an event, a holiday, something special. If the kids or guests are made to feel bad about being with you or missing out on something else, then no one will enjoy themselves. Remember the reasons for coming together. What is the outcome you want from this?

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