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Tips to help you deal with uncomfortable holiday conversations

For many of us, Thanksgiving will be our first, big family gathering in nearly two years.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — For many of us, Thanksgiving will be our first, big family gathering in nearly two years. And while we're thankful to get together this year, things can also get complicated especially if the conversation turns to COVID, which is why experts say the key to holiday harmony is setting ground rules and enforcing them.

Dr. Jermaine Dictato is a clinical psychologist who offers a kind way to deal with controversial conversations.

“'Hey guys, remember we talked about this beforehand? This is off limits.’ If they continue to speak about that, it's okay to be like, ‘hey I'm not going to speak about this with you. I already told you about that. Come back to me when you're able to talk about something differently.’” Dr. Dictato said.

Dr. Dictato also recommends figuring out ahead of time how you're going to deal with stressful situations - that way you're prepared for the worst. One strategy she recommends is going outside for some alone time.

“If family is getting too much, it's ok to take a break,” said Dr. Dictato. “Step back and take care of yourself and come back when you're ready.”

Psychologist Lisa Damour shared similar advice Wednesday on the CBS Morning Show.

“I think one of the things we want to remember over the holidays is that, just because someone throws something doesn't mean you have to catch it.” Damour said.

Her advice? Politely change the conversation.

“It means you're basically saying, Thanksgiving, my goal is not to get into a fight. It's to get through it in a nice way and then move on.” Damour said.

Getting through it safely is also a concern for many. If you only want guests who are vaccinated or wearing masks, that's ok, just be sure to let them know ahead of time in a friendly way.

“Empathy is a really great way to help connect with people and also decrease some of that tension so you can say – ‘hey - it's really important for us to keep everyone safe and we want to keep you safe as well and it's important we all keep our masks on during this event’,” Dr. Dictato said.

Experts say another key to having less stress at Thanksgiving is to lower your expectations. Things aren't going to be perfect, but in the end remember what's important.

“You have a home. You have food. You have company,” said Dr. Damour. “Tune into that. We get our perspective back and it makes it easier to bear the hard parts.”

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