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November 22, 2020
5 Tips for Tough Pandemic Holiday Conversations
How many times growing up did your parents tell you something was “for your own good?” Probably more than you can, or care to, count. Well, now the shoe’s on the other foot. And while it’s not always comfortable to try and convince your parents that they need to take certain precautions or miss out on traditional holiday experiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important. Here’s some advice for ways to navigate this touchy subject so you can keep everyone as safe and happy as possible.
1. Clearly State Your Intentions
Start your conversation by telling your parents that the reason you’re talking to them about this in the first place is because you care about them and want to keep them and everyone in your lives safe. Nobody wants there to be a pandemic or to miss out on holiday traditions, but here we are. We can’t control how COVID-19 is impacting the world, but we can control how we try to reduce risks and protect each other. Framing up the conversation as a well-intentioned effort of love and concern is a smart way to ensure nobody tries to assign ulterior motives to you or becomes overly defensive.
2. Be Empathetic
These are uncertain and frustrating times for everyone—including your parents. This shouldn’t be a one-sided conversation. Ask for them to share their feelings and try to put yourself in their position. Listening and understanding instead of lecturing and dismissing feelings will always make discussions smoother and result in better outcomes. This doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreement and emotional flare ups (this is a sensitive topic) but try to keep your cool and remember why you’re having the talk in the first place. A little bit of kindness goes a long way.
3. Lay the Groundwork
If you’re following the CDC recommendations for safe holiday celebrations (and we hope you are) be sure to clearly explain the rules and your expectations. Your parents have the freedom to choose not to abide by these rules or to agree to your expectations, but you have the freedom to tell them those things are deal breakers. There is room for compromise in some areas, but when it comes to keeping family and friends safe, compromise is not an option. Do your best to calmly make your case for wanting to do things the way you’ve set forth (i.e., virtual celebrations, mask-wearing requirements, etc.) and that you really want them to get on board so you can share the holidays together in some form.
Like we’ve said, this year is different. Period. Everyone has had to adapt to keep people safe and making adjustment to holiday traditions are no exception. COVID-19 doesn’t care how disappointed we are. So, look for ways to tweak traditions and make do this year. Maybe this means going virtual—connecting with family and friends online instead of in-person. Or perhaps it’s drive-by greetings in which everyone drives up to see each other safely from inside their cars. Demonstrating your willingness to work with your parents to find creative ways to keep the joy in the holidays is critical.
5. Look Ahead
Hope is a powerful thing. Talk to your parents about next year. Remind them that the precautions and sacrifices we make now are meant to preserve everyone’s health and give them the best chance to be here for the holidays next year. Make plans for what’s to come after the pandemic. Having something to look forward to will help ease the pain of missing out on in-person gatherings and inspire optimism for the months to come.