• Liza Harbison

How to Talk to Family About the Holidays During Coronavirus

Updated: Jan 8

This is a difficult holiday season for many, and families are not always on the same page about how or whether to celebrate together. Whether you are still making your own decisions about getting together or you know you are staying home and are worried about telling family, these tips will give you some confidence.



Know your risk tolerance

Everyone has a different idea of what is safe behavior right now, and you need to take into account not just public health expertise but your personal comfort level. Are you comfortable with an indoor gathering with 2 weeks of quarantining beforehand? What about an outdoor gathering? Zoom only? Does it depend on a specific covid statistic in your state? All of these are valid, but knowing your personal expectations from the start will make communication clearer. Give yourself permission to own your decision.


Validate your family’s feelings

This conversation can easily become combative, but it helps to validate your family’s feelings. Yes, this year was hard and we could all use some fun. Your family is allowed to want to see you. Let them know you are sad about the situation, and are grieving the loss of normalcy as well. Remind them that you are doing this because you care about them and want them to be safe.


Know what you are asking for

If there is any wiggle room in your comfort level or there are contingencies to your plan, know them in advance and speak them clearly. “I would love to come home in a couple of weeks, but I am only doing so if we all get tested 3 days before.” “I want to celebrate with you, but I am not comfortable seeing the whole family and risking that exposure. I will only be able to join if there are fewer than 5 people.” Make sure you are discussing what you are comfortable with, not shaming them for handling covid differently.


Be clear and hold your boundaries

This is where knowing your own needs and expectations is really important. If you don’t know where the line is for you, you may not realize when it gets crossed. Going in knowing your firm needs and where you’re willing to compromise allows you to feel comfortable knowing you are not asking for too much. Remaining kind and empathetic allows you to leave the conversation knowing you did the best you could. Remember, just because your family is upset doesn’t mean you have to give in. They are allowed to be upset and it is certainly understandable! But that doesn’t mean you did anything wrong or need to “fix” their feelings.


Ask questions and give information

Help your family understand why you have set the boundaries you have, how to get tested, etc. Sometimes dismissiveness and defensiveness come from just not having the answer or being overwhelmed by the suggestion. Be sure you are trying to understand how they are making their decisions, and what precautions they are taking.


Suggest alternative ways to celebrate

Whether you are staying home altogether, or limiting the number of people getting together, there will probably be some changes to the usual holiday traditions. Find fun ways to replace them or make them digital. Can you stream a holiday movie together? Drop off food for each other so you are still sharing a meal? This thoughtfulness will show your family you aren’t just blowing them off.


Stay safe, and happy holidays. They may be different, but they can still be special.




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