Dear Barb – Thanksgiving Unwelcome

Dear Barb:

Well, another Thanksgiving has been ruined because of my sister! She’s divorced and has two kids.  But the last three Thanksgivings she has brought a different guy and his kids to our family dinner.  She hardly knows these guys, so everyone feels uncomfortable.  The guy she brought this year had three kids. Two were in their early teens.  The youngest one was running through the house making a mess and not listening to anyone while his father totally ignored him.  My sister tried to get the boy to listen, but he completely disregarded what she said.  Even mom stepped in and tried to control him, to no avail.  Meanwhile the teenagers were on their phones for the most part, except when I caught the older one smoking weed outside.  I laid into him about doing something illegal at my mom’s house.  At least he listened to me.  We don’t know what to do about this.  My brother and I want my sister and her kids to share family events, but why does she always have to bring these guys, that she hardly knows, plus their kids.  Do you have any suggestions on how we could handle this without my sister becoming angry and not showing up? She is a very reactive person.  Thanks, Nicole.

Hi Nicole:

Sorry to hear about your Thanksgiving, but I think this happens more often than most people realize, especially as people are now having multiple marriages and blended families.  Maybe it’s time to begin some new family traditions.  For example, drag out some old games and get everyone involved.  Get outside and throw a ball around, or go for a hike.  Get the kids to burn off some energy while creating a fun day they will remember.  This will give mom time to tend to the dinner, or if mom wants to join in the fun, get someone else to peel the potatoes, or just leave the potatoes for a few minutes, while everyone goes for a hike.  Kids always function better in a structured environment.  Also participating in these activities will give everyone an opportunity to get to know each other.  You and your brother could also suggest to your sister that she not bring anyone over until she knows them a little better.  Discuss with her how the situation is uncomfortable for everyone.  You will have to be careful how to approach this with your sister, as she may get her back up and decide she is not going to attend.  You and your brother should have a pretty good idea how your sister will react, so consider how you want to proceed.  The answer may be to simply keep everyone busy to keep the tension to a minimum.  Thanks for your great letter.

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Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length and to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.
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