Togetherness doesn't come without stress or hesitation during the holidays. Navigating around the holidays can be a challenging time, especially during a pandemic.
Matt Diep, LMSW, behavioral health specialist with Spectrum Health, shares seven things to consider when gathering for the holidays amid COVID-19.
- Consider your personal limits (and the limits in your household). What is your comfort level with gathering with others? Is anyone in your household in a high-risk health category? Are you willing to travel? Do you want people in your home?
- Gather information: Talk to family members about how they have been responding to the pandemic. Are they socially distancing and wearing masks? Find out what strategies they have been using.
- Asking About Vaccination Status: Asking about vaccination status can feel awkward; however, this is an important piece of information and may be a hard limit for your gathering. Start by disclosing your own status and then a brief explanation of why you are asking. Ex: “My partner, myself, and my 7-year-old are vaccinated. Our 3-year-old is not able to be yet. Would you mind letting us know if your household is? We are trying to make safe decisions for ourselves and others.” If it feels like the conversation takes a tense turn, thank the other person for the information they have shared and ask to end the discussion or consider a time to come back to it later.
- Agree on the rules. If you decide to go through with a family event, consider asking your group to have agreed-upon guidelines. For example, everyone limits their social interactions a week or two before the event, or everyone remains masked at certain times. Have an open and honest discussion about the importance of communicating and canceling if someone is ill.
- Keep it in perspective. This has been an unusual (to say the least) year with a lot of uncertainty. Things are frequently changing and while this year’s holidays may also be unusual, that does not mean that they will always be this way.
- Challenge your assumptions. You might be worried that your family will be angry or upset with you, or you might anticipate missing out if you decide to not participate. We usually assume the worst and may be surprised when these conversations or situations go better than anticipated.
- Allow yourself and others the opportunity to experience emotions in a healthy way. There may be some losses and changes this year that are disappointing. It’s okay to own this and say, “I’m really going to miss spending time with you and I’m sad that we can’t celebrate the way we normally would.”
Learn more by visiting spectrumhealth.org.
Medical Moment is sponsored by Spectrum Health.