Dear Readers,

Happy Thanksgiving. A day of gratitude. So many children will be between Mom’s house and Dad’s house over this holiday. Perhaps special activities geared to this unique holiday would be appropriate. Enjoy.



Dear Carolyn,

I am a dad and this is not my year to have the entire Thanksgiving with my two children, ages 9 and 11. I get to have dinner with them on Thanksgiving Day, and their mother has the remainder of the time. We alternate years like this. I want to make the time special for them. Business travel has me busy. Any ideas?


Carolyn Answers …

Yes, I have some ideas. First, turn off the television and don’t eat in front of the television. Focus on a family meal around a table.

The possibilities for creativity are endless.

Possibly have a fun activity that each family member can take home with them for the remainder of the weekend. While there are a multitude of ideas, I suggest a gratitude journal for each person who will be around your table.

Go to a book store and pick up a cute, seasonal notebook/journal for each individual. Pre-label the journal as Gratitude Journal for Johnny (last name), Nov. 24, 2016. Start the meal with having everyone write a thought of gratitude in the journal and reading the thought to the others at the table. Then a couple of times throughout the meal, pass the journal around until everyone has written in all the journals and made a gracious comment about the journal’s owner. Johnny, for example, would write a nice comment about each member at the table. “Dad, I really appreciate your planning for the gratitude journal.”

Plan an active dessert, perhaps something non-traditional. Have an ice cream sundae bar. Each person would build his or her own dessert. You might find some cookies to make the top of the sundae look like a turkey. Of course, make some pictures for remembrance of this most special moment in time.

Ask: What is Thanksgiving? Perhaps even play a few questions of Thanksgiving trivia after dinner. Question: When was the first Thanksgiving? Answer: Dec. 11, 1620. The pilgrims lost 46 of 102 colonists but survival made them thankful. Question: What president made Thanksgiving a national holiday? Answer: George Washington. Question: What president made Thanksgiving the last Thursday of November? Answer: Abraham Lincoln made a presidential proclamation in 1863. Question: When did Congress recognize Thanksgiving as a national holiday? Answer: More recently than you might think. It was 1941 when Congress made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Why was Thanksgiving sometimes referred to as Franksgiving in the 1940s? That’s one to google, for fun.

Exercise some creativity, and enjoy. No stress. Just enjoy.



Dear Carolyn,

I am a grandmother, and I (along with my husband) am meeting my daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons in Kansas City for Thanksgiving. We are having an extended holiday weekend with my son-in-law’s extended family –most of whom I do not know. Do you have any tips for making this extremely extended family blend into a beautiful holiday? I suspect there are already many established traditions and I won’t know what these are until I arrive. My husband and I will stay in a hotel, and hopefully, we’ll be able to keep the two grandsons soon.


Carolyn Answers …

This can be so much fun. Kansas City has such a beautiful plaza that lights up like a Charles Dickens village. Now for some tips.

Take a hostess gift for any home where you are served meals or treats. Nice candles are festive and appropriate. Throw in a few nice chocolates in the gift bag. Take the gift with you so you don’t have to shop in Kansas City at the last minute. Be prepared.

Sensitivity. You are not going to be able to be at all self-centered in this situation. Be in tune to those around you as much as possible.

Listen to others. If you are a talker, cut your talk in half and listen. You’ll learn more about the folks around you while sharing the thoughts most important to you.

For the sportsaholics, do not insist on seeing your game unless the host and/or hostess offer this as an event.

Compromise. You like dinner at 7. So what? It’s a holiday. Roll with the flow of whatever the traditions are you are encountering. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Stay away from a conversation about religion and politics. Even if someone else brings up the election or religion, don’t go down that path. It sounds like there will be several generations present, and these can be volatile times –especially, in the arena of politics.

Offer only clean jokes.

Don’t drink too much. You are in a slightly more vulnerable situation, so take that into consideration in deciding how much you want to lose your inhibitions.

You will be in your own hotel room. Breathe when you are there.

Take some special presents for the grandchildren to enjoy in your hotel room with you. Don’t rely on “screens” to babysit the grandchildren, but use the time to bond with them; it sounds like you don’t necessarily see them every day.

Take pictures.


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Note that answers are intended to provide general legal information and are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.