Tips for keeping things civil during Thanksgiving dinner

For a lot of families, Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful.

There are dozens of mouths to feed and relatives you haven't seen in a year.

With so many personalities coming together, there are bound to be awkward moments around the table.

But it doesn't have to devolve into a family feud, say experts.

"There are a whole cast of characters in the families we live in," says Dr. Isabell Springer, Marriage and Family Councilor in Gainesville, Florida. "It really takes someone taking the initiative for it to be a neutral zone."

So, if you've been designated as the one who will keep the peace, remember these tips:

1. Don't be judgmental about the latest family news, keep your poker face and be supportive.

This isn't a time to grill your family members with questions about what they've done over the year. Save that for a later date. Be prepared to hear some unexpected news, but don't comment on it to your kids or spouse until you leave the table.

2. Have an escape plan if conversations get tense.

"I've even had some families who.. when things get heated.. they'll break into song just to change that tone." Says Dr. Silvia Echevarria-Doan, Associate Professor in the Marriage and Therapy Program at the University of Florida. Kids, traveling, pets and what you're thankful for: these are all go-to topics that can derail most arguments.

3. Avoid sports and politics. 

First, keep the television off. You don't need the distraction or a reminder of events that can spark contentious debate.  Avoiding these hot topics will make it easier to pass the turkey with no hard feelings.

4. Think about ordering in your Thanksgiving meal this year.

"Ordering out is a great option because it takes some of the hassle off of those people who normally do the cooking. You could also have everyone bring a dish and create the meal that way," says Springer. Many supermarkets and local restaurants offer meals with all the trimmings. Prices start around $60 for a family of four and the food comes ready to be heated and then served.

5. No matter what the family history always compliment the host.

Thanksgiving is about being together. Your host has no doubt spent hours preparing to make sure everyone enjoys themselves. Recognizing them for their hard work is the utmost sign of thankfulness. No matter what's happened in the past, remember that they still chose to invite you to dinner. And if it seems unbearable, remember that dinner is just a few hours.