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Gathering For the Holidays With Family During the COVID-19 Pandemic

family holiday dinner

According to the “Experts”, gathering with family and friends during the holiday season is again possible with certain stipulations – none of which, unfortunately, involve personal preferences. We are told how to avoid social, economic, and political issues at social gatherings and around the dinner table, however, a discussion on how to communicate personal vaccination preferences is hard to find. Families nationwide are deciding which family members and friends to invite – or uninvite. Families with children who are not vaccinated want to protect their children and pregnant women who are unvaccinated want to protect themselves. Elderly grandparents, aunts, and uncles, whether vaccinated or not, may insist anyone entering their home be vaccinated.

COVID-19 numbers are up in 22 states, and for many, the initial fear of losing a loved one or being exposed is as great today as it was in 2020. Now that the vaccine is available to almost everyone, someone choosing not to be vaccinated could find themselves alone. They may be uninvited to an annual event or be ostracized by co-workers, family, and longtime friends. Unfortunately, the snubbing and finger pointing works both ways. Surveys have found responses to the vaccinated in an unvaccinated environment can be just as degrading and emotionally devastating. Improving Lives Counseling Services has a team of professionals ready to give you the communication tools needed to avoid flight, fright, and anger, when an updated “approved / unapproved” guest list is distributed.

Holiday gatherings involve more than family and close friends. Religious sermons play a major role in commemorating fall and winter holidays. A recent article in the Episcopal News Service reports: “In addition to wearing a face mask, some Episcopal Cathedrals and Churches require proof of vaccination to attend services. They now will have to provide proof that they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Though far from common, some congregations are requiring proof of vaccination now that vaccines are widely available and easily obtained and have been demonstrated to be effective and safe.” Recently a major news network reported, “Even the Christian Science Church, whose adherents rely largely on prayer rather than medicine, do not impose an official policy. It counsels “respect for public health authorities and conscientious obedience to the laws of the land, including those requiring vaccination.” Debates around the vaccine have added fuel to the hyperbole of the social and political divisive communications families, co-workers, and friends have been having.

Should your company have a Christmas Party? Should you host Thanksgiving Dinner? Should your children participate in the Christmas Pageant? Should you attend a candlelight service? Should you take your child to see Santa? Will flying to grandma’s expose your toddler to COVID? Then there’s New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, with more discussions to be had, and decisions to be made. Regardless of what the pundits report, or what co-workers, family, neighbors, and friends spout, the decision is yours and yours alone. You may hurt some feelings, lose some friends, and be ostracized by extended family; the decision is yours, and Improving Lives Counseling Services is here to help.

Delivering hard to hear or challenging communications can be difficult. Our clinicians, counselors, and therapists can help you start, sustain, and control the conversation. They’ll teach you to develop a clear, concise message, to acknowledge the perspective of others, and to control your emotions – as you tastefully agree to disagree. You’ll learn the importance of empathy when the message is specific and firm, and how to show compassion and understanding without sounding judgmental or sympathetic. Our team of licensed professionals will provide coping tools for your emotional toolbox: including assertiveness, resilience, and confidence in the choices you’ve made for yourself and for your family.

When you communicate the decisions you’ve made for your family around COVID-19 and vaccinations, extended family, co-workers, and friends might be disappointed but should not be hurt. They should be understanding but not angry or dismissive. They should respect your decisions and you should remain in high regard. Let Improving Lives Counseling Services help you live the life you were meant to live. Call us.