#Ask Gretchen; Let's get real.Dear Gretchen: I’m feeling anxious about seeing my family for Thanksgiving. I’m traveling from California to New York and my sister will be there. She has a drinking problem, and we do not get along. She turns every suggestion I give her into a verbal attack. I usually end up in tears and am resentful for the rest of the trip. How do I avoid the drama? – Ana S., Woodland Hills, CA

Dear Ana: Holidays and anxiety go together like turkey and gravy. Dealing with a loved ones drinking can be especially painful. Before seeing your sister, prepare yourself spiritually and mentally. Set an intention for the day to be happy regardless of her actions. Steer clear of meaningful conversations and do not give her any opinions about her life. Those types of discussions can lead to a fiery exchange. If she asks for your advice, tell her that she is smart and that you have complete faith she will figure it out – even if you don’t. Her ideas about what she should do are more important than your suggestions. After that, change the subject, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, sit at a place at the table where you won’t have as much contact, or keep yourself busy by being helpful in the kitchen. Although I’m sure you have great ideas about her life, keep them to yourself. You are not her messenger. – Gretchen

Dear Gretchen: How can my husband and I demonstrate voluntarism and thankfulness to our 4, 6, and 10-year-olds during the holiday season? – Liz C., Seattle, WA

Dear Liz: This is a great question with many options. You can have each child get together a bag of clothes and toys they want to donate to kids in shelters. Explain to them why they are doing it and whom it is for. Kids are usually quite willing to give with purpose. If you’re comfortable, you can take your children to the shelter to actually give the items to the children. Meeting the person you are giving things to, creates a memorable and long-lasting connection. Adopting a family with children of similar ages is another great way to give back and make connections. If you are spiritual and have a belief in God, your family can pray together for the people in need. Praying for others helps us to get out of ourselves. You can also take the kids to a soup kitchen and have them help clear plates, put away chairs and wipe tables. You can also create “helping” bags to give out to the homeless when you see them at freeway off ramps and so on. The bags usually contain socks, chapstick, toiletries, granola bars, water, and feminine hygiene products. Have your children include a picture with a note. Include them in the decision making and ask them who and how they would like to give back to the world. Kids usually come up with great ideas. Happy Thanksgiving! – Gretchen

Dear Gretchen: My divorced parents expect my husband and three kids to travel to their respective houses each year for the holiday. Each of them lives over an hour away from us. We have a newborn, a three-year-old and a five-year-old. I am not up for the drive this year but don’t want to hurt their feelings. What do I do? – Becca, Tampa, FL

Dear Becca: Invite your parents to your house for the Thanksgiving meal. Let them know that traveling is just too difficult with the three kids and that you would love to host them in your home. Ask them to bring the side dishes and tell them you will supply the turkey. If you aren’t up for cooking, order something precooked and eat off of paper plates to make it simple. If you’re concerned that it will be awkward for your parents to share a meal together, ask them if they would be willing to do it this year so that you can all be together. If you tell your parents that you are tired and ask for help, you might be surprised at how much they are willing to do. – Gretchen

Dear Gretchen: How should I approach a friend that I haven’t spoken to in over three years? No incidents happened other than life. – Pam B., Van Nuys, CA

Dear Pam: Call or email the person and tell them that you’ve been thinking about them and would love to catch up. Chances are, they have been just as busy with life as you have. When time goes by it can be hard to make contact with someone who we used to talk to. Being the first one to initiate contact is a kind act to take. Have fun rekindling the friendship. – Gretchen

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