Family Dinner Survival Guide

Tips to help you survive your next family dinner.

The perfect dinner: where the family promises to not talk about politics and it ends with half the family leaving early because everyone broke that rule. Holiday dinners are a chaotic mix of extended family and cousins you’ve never heard of and that one family member that no one asked to be there. Personally, I find dinner to be the most awkward and painful part of every family gathering. If you’re reading this, you might just relate to how I feel, so if you would keep reading I will help with tips on how to survive these dreadfully awkward family gatherings.

TIP ONE: Stick to people you know

This one could seem slightly too obvious, but it is the best tip for these situations. Many people will be around, it’s just a matter of who you’d prefer to be talking to. Even if it may seem trivial to constantly have a conversation and somewhat tiring, looking busy will keep that annoying family member away from you. It could also be nice to catch up with family members you actually want to talk to.

TIP TWO: Do not share your controversial opinions

This is a particularly hard one to follow, but is so helpful in many situations. If you are at a family dinner and no one there believes in global warming, saying you believe global warming is real would single yourself out. It’s best to just pretend you believe the same things as everyone else, or the rest of dinner will be very awkward. Disagreeing with people can be incredibly frustrating, but it’s probably best to avoid these conversations or debates at the dinner table. And if you absolutely have to, finish dessert first.

TIP THREE: Pets are your saviors

Whenever pets are at family dinners, I am always with them. There are multiple reasons for this, but one of the easiest is that the pet is a fluffy friend to stick to. Other than being adorable companions, they don’t ask you about your grades or what activities you are doing in life. No one can question you if you play with your favorite pet, so they are the perfect excuse to avoid an unwanted conversation.

TIP FOUR: Silence your phone

Rooms can go silent when a phone gets a notification. Whether it’s a text message from a friend or BeReal going off, the simple chime of a notification going off can make the dinner very awkward. Silencing notifications or even turning off your phone can avoid the awkward feeling of everyone turning to watch you take your phone out of your pocket. You can check your phone after dinner.

TIP FIVE: Always like the food

Not that you have to enjoy it, but even if you don’t, just pretend. Eat whatever is around it and pretend you won’t eat anymore. Getting a variety of foods on your plate is key, since then that one thing you don’t like can be avoided and you can get more of whatever you like. It’s the perfect strategy to eat what you want without hurting someone’s feelings and making the whole dinner table upset by sharing an opinion.

TIP SIX: Respect even the dumbest rules

Keep your elbows on the table. Eat everything with a fork, even soup. Only take a tablespoon of the cranberry sauce. I don’t know, but whatever weird rules are there just go with them. There are so many weird rules that certain households have for dinner. Even if it’s the dumbest rule you can think of, the rules are temporary, but that judgment for disobeying can last forever.

TIP SEVEN: Follow what adults tell you to do

We’ve all heard the classic “because I said so” excuse from adults after why they are making you do something. At family dinners, they might ask you to add food to their plate, help a younger child eat or just pass a bowl of food. Either way, it is better to just do whatever they say rather than question why. It will make the dinner go much smoother, even if you do not understand a specific task someone has told you to do.

TIP EIGHT: Chew with your mouth closed, please

Generally respecting table manners is a good idea, but even though some of these are obvious people still tend to just disobey them. While chewing with your mouth closed should be normalized, there are still people who do it and still seem oblivious to the glares they receive from everyone around them. This applies to eating anything at any time, but following table manners at family dinners is an overall good idea.

TIP NINE: Sometimes, less is more

There’s usually at least one family member that tends to shame people for anything. Whether it’s about how much or little food there is or what food is on your plate, their strange comments will echo throughout the room. Even if the food is really good, having less on your plate can avoid that person making snarky comments. Even just going to get seconds of whatever food you like would be better to avoid that awkward look from bystanding relatives.

TIP TEN: Stay as true to yourself as you can

While all of these tips could counter what you would normally do, remember it is still okay to be yourself or even avoid these tips simply because you want to. These tips can help people at a family dinner, but do not change who you are if you are completely fine knowing how the family dinner could go. Tips do not necessarily mean demands or things you must do, instead recommendations from me to you to make these dinners less awkward.

I think that’s plenty of tips that can help you survive your next family dinner. Whatever holiday you are celebrating over winter break or whenever your next family gathering is, you can use these tips to avoid awkward looks and conversations you’ve dreaded in the past!