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Thanksgiving Survival Guide: DINK Edition

Thanksgiving with your in-law/extended families: these five simple survival tips can make the evening enjoyable, instead of stressful exercise in self defense.

Thanksgiving Survival Guide: DINK Edition
Surviving this takes strategic planning

You may love your DINK life, but your conventional family members may not understand it. They might not even approve. Their pursed, disappointed lips could part to deliver a less-than-subtle guilt trip  (“If only we had grandchildren to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!”) or take a more embarrassing tack (“Is something wrong with you, biologically?”). You have several options for reacting to this situation; some will likely end in tears, but others can turn the evening around.  You might, dear readers, even have fun.

So without further ado, five simple tips for a peaceful DINK Thanksgiving—even if you’re surrounded by decidedly non-DINK family.

Letting It Go

A traditional family may never understand your decision to wait on, or forgo completely, having kids. Thanksgiving, utterly roasted, baked, and basted in tradition, isn’t the best occasion to help your in-laws see the light. A simple truism applies here: You can’t change the way they think, but you can change the way you let it affect you. If you can just shrug, smile, and say something sweet (but vague), like “We’re enjoying being together and playing it by ear,” this could be enough to satisfy them and allow you to change the subject.

Yes, Change that Subject

We need not be experts in the field of psychology to know that people often enjoy talking about themselves. Come to the table prepared with a list of questions you can ask each in-law, extended family member, and their children. You’ll likely need to do some research before hand: What are their interests? What do they do for a living? Are they in school? Studying  what? The effort will pay off.  You’ve taken the focus completely off of yourself and made them into the stars for the evening. They’ll likely love you for it!

But Be Careful about that Subject

Stay on neutral topics, though you may be dying to discuss something more stimulating than weather and infant sleeping habits. If you know your in-laws don’t follow art, what’s the point of bringing it up? You only set yourself apart further. If you know you’re vehemently different politically, why choose Thanksgiving to debate? Drink some wine, give your partner a kick under the table for solidarity, and relax. Soon enough you’ll be back in your own space and free to talk about whatever you want.

Play Games Instead

Games act as neutralizers. They give everyone something to focus on other than each other, a welcome relief from making small talk and avoiding sticky subjects.  Plus,
they’re fun. Try poker, Catch Phrase or Pictionary—anything that doesn’t require a cultural capital you may not share with these family members. Shoot for multi-generational activities, enjoyable for most anyone. And if the weather happens to cooperate, why not ping pong, horse shoes, or something physical? Get the blood pumping, the endorphins up, and you’ll feel better immediately.

Control the Situation

It may frighten you to consider this, but you might have more fun hosting the event rather than simply attending it. You  get to set the time, choose the music, the menu,  the ambience-- but most importantly, you can plan out ways to keep everyone occupied and enjoying themselves, leaving no time for awkward or unwanted questions about your future plans.  Don’t try to do everything yourself though: let your mother in-law make the pie she’s famous for; your uncle in-law his barbequed turkey. This way, everyone feels valued and you don’t exhaust yourself.  

Make Your Own Tradition… Later

Above all, have some fun. Thanksgiving with the family may be trying, but you can celebrate everything you’re thankful for any way you want before or after the actual holiday. You and your partner can make a tradition of any kind, skipping the turkey and opting for scallops; trading pumpkin pie for crème brulee. You can eat it all by candle light in bathing suits, if you want to. If you keep in mind that later, your personal Thanksgiving is waiting, it will be easier to survive—even enjoy—that big family version.

Anna Marie Erwert is a professional writer and teacher, recently married and transplanted to Portland, OR by way of San Francisco, CA. A dedicated DINK, she thrives on words, dogs, music, art, communing with nature, and witty repartee.  Read her work in the SFGate’s On the Block and Culture Blog, CurbedSF, San Francisco’s The Front Steps and ZipRealty’s ZipCode blog. Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMarieErwert


Great article, Anna!

In my case, my man's whole family seems way too invested. Catholics, you know. So we're pretty much burning in hell by not reproducing. I change the subject, play games, and re-direct the conversation like a pro!

Changing the subject typically works in these situations. Really it's only your parents that truly care about whether you have kids or not, for extended family it's just something to gossip about and an excuse to voice their opinion.


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