Tips For a Less Stressful Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving will be here in a few days and many of us are busy finalizing our holiday plans. No matter whether you’re traveling or staying home and having dinner with family, there are some things you should remember that can ease the tensions that sometimes occur during the holiday.

The American Automobile Association estimates that nearly 31.7 million people will be on the road this Thanksgiving, a 2.6 percent increase from the 30.8 million who drove last year. Many of these travelers will have young children with them. Traveling with small children can be difficult, but there are some things you can do to make riding in a car for several hours a lot less of a chore:

—Don’t bring toys or games that have multiple pieces. If the pieces are dropped, they can fall under seats and be difficult to find. Searching for them can create havoc. It will upset the child and distract the driver, which could result in an accident.

Instead, bring toys like hand held games that are designed to be portable.

—Do bring a child’s favorite bedtime story book with you. Reading it to your child can ease any stress he or she may be feeling because they are traveling so far from home. It may also relax the child enough to allow them to sleep part of the way.

— Do bring a lightweight blanket to cover napping children. —

Do pack snacks in individual containers like pudding or fruit cups. Also take along individual water bottles or juice boxes.

—Don’t forget to bring a package of plastic spoons so that there will be extras if needed, and a box of wipes to quickly clean sticky fingers.

—Do pack a small overnight bag with the child’s pajamas, slippers, toothbrush and toothpaste. If you arrive at your destination late, having these items readily available will make it easier to put a tired child to bed.

—Don’t forget to pack the child’s favorite stuffed animal that he or she sleeps with. Having a favorite toy can make the child more comfortable about sleeping in a strange bed and avoid any bedtime tantrums.

If you plan to host Thanksgiving dinner at your home, you’re probably anticipating the arrival of all of those guests with a lot of excitement and maybe just a little trepidation. After all, big family gatherings can sometimes turn into big family brawls.

However, that doesn’t have to happen if you remember that Thanksgiving dinner is as much about being social as it is about eating all of the foods we look forward to all year. The primary rule of being social is knowing how to make small talk that encourages people to participate in an enjoyable way. Here are some tips to keep the conversation flowing along with the food:

—To get people started talking, steer the conversation toward a recent family event like someone’s wedding or the birth of a child. If someone at the table has recently graduated, ask them to talk about their future educational or career plans. Ask if anyone present has experienced a recent change like a new job or new home. And as much of a cliché as it has become, talking about the weather can be a safe topic when all else fails.

—The one thing to always keep in mind is that the dinner table is not the place to discuss politics, money or religion. They are usually the subjects that get the fireworks going.

—Steer clear of health issues as well. Listing ailments can be boring and cause people to break off into their own side conversations. The idea is to keep the entire table talking about the same thing so that everyone can participate and no one feels they are being forced to eat in silence.

—One last "conversational "don’t" to remember: don’t talk about personal appearance. You may think Johnny’s shoulder length hair is attractive, but Grandma may feel otherwise. That can be the makings of an all-out family war as everyone chooses up sides as to whether or not Johnny should keep his hair long.

Of course, you can’t talk about holiday dining without talking about overeating. Most people tend to overeat at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s hard to avoid it. There are foods on the table that we haven’t enjoyed since last year, so the tendency is to eat with gusto.

The medical term for indigestion is Dyspepsia and it’s seldom serious. Here are some tips for avoiding and/or alleviating, the condition:

—Be aware that certain foods—spicy dishes, foods high in fat and fiber, or large quantities of caffeine—can trigger indigestion.

—We usually get indigestion because of overeating, but you can also get it from eating too fast and swallowing air while you eat. That’s why it is important to chew your food thoroughly, with your mouth closed, and eat slowly so you won’t swallow all that air.

—Try to limit the amount of fluids you drink during the meal, because too much liquid can also cause indigestion.

—Lastly, limit portion size. Do sample everything on the table; just don’t eat huge quantities of anything.

—If you do experience indigestion after the meal, the best thing to do is to stop eating and allow your stomach to return to normal naturally. It will calm down on its own in a few hours. Antacids can reduce the level of acidity in your stomach, which will relieve your heartburn, but antacids have no effect on indigestion.

The best prevention against indigestion is to exercise a little moderation at the dinner table. After all, you can always enjoy leftovers the day after Thanksgiving.