Everyday Etiquette: 10 Tips for Grandma's Thanksgiving Table
Thanksgiving dinner without the trauma of a manners meltdown.

By Diance Gottsman

For most adults, Thanksgiving is a special holiday spent with family and friends. Often, adult "kids" go to their parents' home, carting along their own children for an old-fashioned, home-cooked meal.

With much anticipation the adults plan their day in terms of breakfast, lunch, watching football on TV, dessert, nap, dinner, dessert, antacid and more dessert! For the kids, on the other hand, it's a day made up of itchy church clothes, lengthy family photos and too many kisses on the cheek. Yuck! Short of a toothache, they would much prefer sitting in the dentist chair (anticipating a prize at the end of the visit) than "sitting up straight" at Grandma's table.

Grandparents, parents and friends can ease the pain of the holiday meal by following a few simple steps. After all, etiquette is the ability to put others at ease and this is a perfect opportunity to ease the children's holiday "suffering" a bit:

1. If the menu includes exotic meats, extravagant side dishes and foods that are difficult to pronounce, much less eat, add a few basics to the menu, such as macaroni and cheese and green beans. Call it "kid-friendly" food.

2. Encourage children to bring a change of clothes so they can "relax" after the obligatory Thanksgiving pictures. Take the picture as soon as possible to avoid orange sweet potato stains on starchy white shirts.

3. If time allows, let the kids take turns stuffing the traditional bird. It's a messy job and most of the stuffing may end up on the floor, but the kids will remember it. Remember, you are in control of the hand-washing before and after the stuffing begins and Diane Gottsman

4. Teach children how to make a toast at the table. Explain that a toast is an opportunity to welcome the family and say something that will make others feel good. Start off with a welcome toast and during the dessert course, encourage children to make a toast to someone special at the table, letting them know what they are grateful for. Remind the entire table that a toast should last only a few seconds (and the person being toasted should never drink to him/herself).

5. Before the meal begins, give each child a basket or paper bag and send them outside to find decorations for the Thanksgiving table. Allow them to decorate the table all by themselves. If it happens to include a dead frog or live grasshopper, roll with the punches and make the best of it.

6. Refrain
from showing horror when your fancy napkins are stained by sticky little fingers. If you insist on using fine linen, have some inexpensive, cloth Thanksgiving-themed napkins for the kids.

7. Show children what to do with their napkin. If the napkin hits the floor, mention it, but try to make Thanksgiving a "lecture-free" day.

8. Don't be the designated dessert monitor, commenting on the number of times children have gone back for more brownies and cake, or mentioning in a hurtful voice that they did nothing but sniff at your chestnut soup and wild rice crab pilaf.

9. Compliment each child on something that makes you grateful for him or her. Give equal compliments to all.

10. After clearing the table, bring out crafts to make a Thanksgiving project together. Better yet, try this "mandatory family fun" before the meal. Happy Thanksgiving!
Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol expert who leads programs for children and adults. To read her previous columns, visit the Etiquette Archives.