By Robert L. Mues   |   November 21st, 2009

tur1.jpgKaren Armstrong, a human development extension agent with North Dakota State University, posted an excellent Thanksgiving piece two years ago. Her suggestions and insights bear repeating. Plus, I liked her Thanksgiving Quiz!  She was kind enough to allow me to republish it.

The holiday season can be stressful enough on its own. Families who have changed the make up of their household because of divorce or marriage since last year have some new challenges. If this describes your family, watch your children for signs of stress this season. Often times the shopping and decorating is too much for them. Encourage your children to talk about what they are feeling and keep those lines of communication open so they can approach you when they need to.

Because of the holidays, you may feel that you and your children are supposed to be happy, but allow time to deal with the adjustments. For example, it’s normal and healthy for children to miss the other parent; acknowledge their feelings and let them know it’s okay.

Financial strains become a reality to most families during this time. Communicate with your children’s other parent about the gifts that will be purchased. Consider agreeing on a price limit for each parent. This will eliminate the temptation to “out do” the other parent and feeling the need to overcompensate.

Only in special circumstances is it recommended that children be split up at the holidays. They will already be missing the other parent, to miss a sibling will only add to the uncertainty about their new life. Evaluate this situation very carefully.

Plan ahead of time how holidays are to be spent. Make a point to schedule time with each parent during the holiday season.  For parents who feel comfortable sharing the holiday, this can be a good plan if possible. However, be cautious about the time you spend together, especially if the divorce was recent. This can be confusing to the child who is hoping for reconciliation.

If your home has changed because of marriage and you have created a blended family, there are also ways to make your holidays smoother. Choose to continue some special traditions that you had before and some that your new spouse had before your marriage. Changing the entire routine often creates an atmosphere of anger and resentment toward the stepparent. Encourage everyone to share the significance of the tradition so no one feels left out. Decide to create some new, inexpensive traditions that will be easy to carry out every year. The parent who will not be with the children at the holidays has certain responsibilities. Make plans to spend time with friends, family or volunteering. The children will feel anxious about your feelings. They will need reassurance that you will not be lonely.

If you have accepted the responsibility of parenting solo, don’t focus on the absent parent at this time. You may not have planned for the holidays to be the way they are, but you can make the most of it. Communities often have groups for single parents that provide activities during the holidays.

When the holidays are over, you may feel exhausted, let down, even depressed. It is typical to believe you feel this way because the holidays were disappointing to your family or kids. If that’s the case, think about what could be done differently in the future. Also remember that this may be your body’s way of telling you to take some time for yourself now and relax.

Turkey Quiz – How much do you really know about Turkey?

Here are some questions to review the basics of safe Thanksgiving food handling.


1. When thawing a turkey under cold water, how often should the water be changed?

a. Every 10 minutes
b. Every 30 minutes
c. Every wo hours

2. If you’d like some leftovers, about how much turkey (including bone weight) should you allow per person?

a. 0.5 pound
b. 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
c. 3 to 4 pounds

3. True or False: “Dressing” and “stuffing” are interchangeable terms that relate to the bread mixture served with turkey.

4. Leftover turkey should be removed from the carcass and refrigerated:

a. within six hours following roasting
b. within four to five hours following roasting
c. within one to two hours following roasting

5. How many turkeys are annually pardoned by the president of the United States?

a. One
b. Two
c. Three

6. How long can leftover turkey be safely stored in the refrigerator?

a. Three to four days
b. Five to six days
c. Seven to 10 days

7. True or False: Reheating a whole turkey on the carcass is not recommended.

8. Which is lowest in fat and calories?

a. Dark meat without skin
b. Dark meat with skin
c. White meat without skin

9. To what internal temperature should a whole turkey be cooked?

a. 120° F
b. 180° F
c. 220° F

10. True or False: Sometimes pop-up thermometers prematurely pop up, before a turkey has reached a safe internal temperature.

11. About how much turkey is eaten on Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.?

a. 360 million pounds
b. 490 million pounds
c. 690 million pounds

12. True or False:  A baked pumpkin pie is safe to leave out at room temperature.

Here are the answers: 1. b; 2. b; 3. True; 4. a; 5. a; 6. a; 7. True; 8. c; 9. b; 10. True; 11. c; and 12. False because of its milk and egg content it should be kept in the refrigerator.

For more information about turkey preparation, visit the National Turkey Federation Web site at To read Karen’s original post, which also includes a great recipe for turkey salsa soup, click here

Please click here to read an excellent comment posted to this story by Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC, a psychotherapist in Connecticut, who works with families in transition. From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’sJourney through Divorce was awarded Honorable Mention in the self-help category by the Independent Publishers Association. Her second book Profileactics: A Guide for the Prevention of Ill-Conceived Personal Ads was just published in October 2009.

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.

Your Thanksgiving Doesn’t have to be a Turkey!
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3 thoughts on “Your Thanksgiving Doesn’t have to be a Turkey!

  • November 22, 2009 at 12:19 am

    I read your post and thought I would share a story I found at about two remarkable young girls who made the decision to give thanks on Thanksgiving by giving to others.

    This is the story…

    Two teenagers organizing a neighborhood food drive to give thanks by giving to others. “Bridgett Jenkins recognized a memory in the making when her 13-year-old daughter, Stacy, and her pal Jaymie Grauman, 14, organized a neighborhood food drive late last week [November 1996]. ‘They were just sitting there, and they said ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to just help someone?’ We’ve been there before,’ Jenkins said. “We know what it’s like to be down and out.’ The girls used Jaymie’s computer to design their fliers, then they hand-delivered them to the 150 homes in their neighborhood, Tibbitts Landing. That Sunday the girls got a little red wagon and started collecting. With the help of Jaymie’s father and a few friends, they ended the day with 10 bags of groceries for the food bank at Elk Plain School. ‘They were really excited,’ Jenkins said of the Bethel Junior High School students. ‘They thought nobody would really put anything out.’ Now they know how one generous act leads to another.”

    Let us hope that we can all follow the heroic example of these two young girls.

  • Donna Ferber
    November 22, 2009 at 6:22 am


    Thanksgiving marks the official beginning of the holiday season. Although usually less fraught with anxiety than Christmas, if it is the first “big holiday” since your estrangement from your spouse, you may be dreading the day. It also may be your first holiday without your children.

    Going through a divorce can give you the perfect “excuse” to break with tradition and forge your own way of celebrating. Spending the holiday home by yourself watching videos and eating Chinese take-out (yes, they are open on Thanksgiving) may be just what you need to do! Evelyn prepared a complete Thanksgiving dinner for herself of her favorite foods. She set the table with linen and candles and put on music she liked. Then she enjoyed the day celebrating by herself. Divorce gives you the opportunity to listen to what you want and what works for you. It can be a time of loss of traditions, but it also can signal liberation from those traditions, rituals, and obligations that no longer have meaning for you.

    If you do decide to spend the holiday alone, some people may feel uncomfortable with your decision. Stand your ground. Know what is right for you. If you need to spend the day cleaning out the basement or making cookies, then do it! Pay attention to your own needs.

    If you have your children for the holiday, you may want to discuss alternate plans with them. Some families go to the movies on Thanksgiving Day, eschewing the big turkey for a big bag of popcorn. You can make new choices to fit your life. Above all remember, every holiday is only twenty four hours. You can get through twenty four hours. Next year won’t carry the same weight as this year. You will be surprised when you look back on how far you have really come. You will be able to affirm that the journey was tough, but worth it!

    One final word on Thanksgiving—whatever you decide to do, set aside a few minutes to express and feel your gratitude. You can do this in prayer, with your children, in a letter to yourself, or in volunteering. There are good things in your life. When you neglect to honor them, you give divorce too much power. Divorce is not your whole life, but rather something that happens in your life!

    Adapted from Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce

    © Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC 2005, 2009.

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