DEAR HARRIETTE: This Thanksgiving will be very different for my family. We will be celebrating with my stepfather's family for the first time. All of his children and their mother's family will be there. Their mother will not be there because she is estranged from the family. I have never been the most outgoing person, and people describe me as shy. Although I have a few weeks to calm my nerves, I am becoming anxious about how to interact with these people I have never met on such an important holiday. I have been looking up conversation starters, but frankly, they seem quite awkward, and "Tell me about you" seems so pushy! How can I navigate the waters with my new "family" without embarrassing myself in the conversation? -- Awkward Millennial, Boston
DEAR AWKWARD MILLENNIAL: It is OK for you to just be yourself. If you are normally quiet, you do not need to transform into a social butterfly. Instead, ease into relationship with this part of your family. Introduce yourself when you arrive and when others come in. Let the more outgoing family members do more of the talking.
You can also talk to your mother in advance. Remind her of how uncomfortable you can become in unfamiliar settings. Ask her to help you during Thanksgiving. Be specific with your mom. Tell her you feel anxious and that you want to figure out how to engage your stepfather's family. Make it clear to her that you need her support. Go to her during your time together if you feel like you need a boost.