Every year, AAA predicts more than 40 million people will be traveling during the Thanksgiving season. Are you one of them? Do you even want to be?

I admit I am one of those 40 million-plus who will be traveling this Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday, what with the food, the drinks and the fun we all have. But that may not be the case for everyone, and that’s OK. Sometimes we need a break from traveling or we may be envisioning something different this holiday season. Here’s how to break the news to your family this year.

Give plenty of notice

I know people who plan their holiday get-togethers months in advance. So, if you already know you aren’t going to make it to the annual New Year’s Eve party at Aunt Edna’s in New Jersey, tell her now. You will save your family time and expense by letting them know ahead of time that you have other plans.

Be gracious

Thank your family for the invitation. Let them know how much you have enjoyed their company in previous years. You may even want to comment on how much you’ll miss your brother’s shenanigans when he carves the bird or the delicious green bean casserole your cousin makes. A little grace goes   long way.

It’s not you, it’s me

Some people may get offended that you aren’t attending this year, or they might feel they have offended you. Tell them this isn’t the case. Say something along the lines of, “I had something different in mind this year.” For our first Christmas in our new home, I invited our families to Christmas breakfast. I let them know I wanted my kids to wake up in their own home on Christmas morning. I was honest and I knew I would be flexible in the coming years.

Don’t be guilt-tripped

“The holidays won’t be the same without you!” You know your family is being sincere and it’s flattering to know how much you’ll be missed. However, some people can be downright manipulative to get you to visit: “This might be grandma’s last Christmas with us.” UGH. You didn’t want to hear that. If you still plan to stay home for the holidays, let your family know that you will be making a separate visit soon, when the holiday stress is over.

What NOT to Say…

“I just don’t feel like making that long drive.” This statement might make your family feel they aren’t worth the trip.

“We ALWAYS go to your house. Can’t we do something different?” Many people enjoy hosting events and implementing tradition. Saying this may discount their efforts.

“…..” Saying nothing at all or not responding to an invitation is just avoiding confrontation and uncomfortable conversations. 

On the flip side, if someone declines your invitation this year, it’s OK to express your disappointment, but let them know they are always welcome in your home next year. Have a happy holiday!

By Olivia K Pitkethly, MA, LMHC