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Navigating social distancing with family

What happens if you don't agree?
Posted at 6:08 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 17:20:32-04

GRAND RAPIDS — As states slowly starts to re-open, some are anxious to get back out there, while others may be a little more hesitant.

So what do you if you and your friends or family just aren’t seeing eye to eye on social distancing?

Lyndsay Volpe-Bartram , the Section Chief of Psychology at Spectrum Health said that it’s important to realize and accept that everyone is going at their own pace.

She said, “As we can predict with most topics, it’s pretty divided in how people are reacting.”

As a good first step, Volpe-Bartram suggests figuring out how you, your family, or your household want to move forward without any outside opinions.

“Are we first comfortable with doing a walk outside? Doing a driveway meet up? And then to think about what that might look like overtime,” she said.

Then it’s time to discuss that with outside family and friends, which can make people anxious.

“We want to be liked right? We want the people around us to except us, we want to know that we are appreciated, and so anything that we think is going to cause a reaction, is just going to be a lot harder for us to approach,’ Volpe-Bartram said.

She said the best way to start the conversation is by setting boundaries.

“When we are communicating a boundary to people, it’s important that people practice that language ahead of time to again, pick very specific language and to rehearse it, so you can say it with some degree of confidence,” Volpe-Bartram said.

She adds, that It’s all about giving examples.

“If I am talking to my mom and I say ‘I am comfortable meeting you outside, you can see the kids, I prefer that you not touch them, but you can play with them you can talk to them.’ Just find some very specific language to use when instructing people ‘This is where I’m at.’”

It’s equally important to check in with others to see what they’re comfortable with and if those aren’t in alignment, there’s no need to over-explain yourself.

Volpe-Bartram said, “You don’t have to write an essay, or give 15 bullet points about why you do or do not want to do something. If it’s what you believe and what you’re comfortable with, it’s OK to state that straight as is.”

If you’re dealing with family members wanting to see children and you’re just not ready, Volpe-Bartram suggests letting them know it’s nothing personal and if all else fails, you’ll have to agree, to disagree.

“We have to recognize that all of us have adjusted to this process differently and we are going to continue to adjust differently,” Volpe-Bartram said “So it’s good to have the space to listen, to understand how we’re reacting, how the other people around us are reacting, and at the end of the day make good decisions that you feel OK with.”