Part II...Having that conversation....

After deciding about the holiday gatherings plans and you’ve decided to stay put, that’s fine. According to Dr. Bennett, your feelings, comfort and responsibilities must be at the forefront.

Remember, also, things can change suddenly…whether it’s a positive test or the onset of symptoms for you or a family member, even the best-laid plans of mice and men can change at the last minute. It’s helpful to talk about these possibilities as well.

If you’ve decided to skip the holiday trip or the traditional gathering, you’re going to have to cope with not only your emotions and feelings, but also your family’s. For all involved, acknowledging some of the negative emotions, sadness or disappointment is needed. Dr. Bennett reminds us that ignoring emotions is not the same as controlling them…it’s suppressing them when ignored.

It’s healthier to admit you’re sad, disappointed and will miss the traditional events. And yes, the holidays can be positive with new plans…even though they’re different than previous years.

As you think about the holiday rituals/traditions, remember to ask yourself if it’s meaningful to you or does something feels like an obligation. If indeed, it is meaningful, then how do you create a new version of the tradition?

Perhaps food is a meaningful part of your holiday experience, and you live close to your family. What about a socially-distanced food exchange, if you don’t feel comfortable going to a family member’s house for a long meal? Maybe each can contribute the side or dessert that they usually fix and drop a portion off at the other’s house? Is having the meal together on Zoom a possibility? You can sign up for a free Zoom membership, and meet for 40 minutes for free! And if you go longer than 40 minutes, start another session. My family just did a Zoom birthday party for one of my sisters, as we weren’t all able to get together. We’ve had Zoom cocktail parties too… Zoom or any other video call method is a great way to share religious devotions or memories.

As with most of this year, being flexible is the key. Traditions change…it can be due to a new member joining the family, the passing of others, people moving away, some being deployed…things can look different yearly. And sometimes this is the opportunity to evaluate the previous traditions and start new ones.

And if my family doesn’t understand? Or what if they’re dismissive about the CDC guidelines? This might cause some conflict…. If this is the situation you think you’re likely to be in, then remember to “cope ahead.” Have they crossed boundaries and made you feel uncomfortable with decisions previously? It’s also possible that this reaction can come “out of the blue;” letting them know ahead of time can help them to prepare for any emotional let-down.

Other things to remember are your role in family gatherings, as well as your responsibility to your immediate family and your comfort level….is your goal to set a boundary? Is it to stick up for your family and yourself? Be sure that conversations don’t drift away from feelings and comfort level…you’re saying that “I have to do what is right for my family and myself.” This may be new territory for all involved, and acknowledging feelings such as hurt, disappointment or anger is important to all.

Ultimately, it’s about setting that boundary. It’s important for them to hear what your decision is...perhaps this wording will be a guide: “Unfortunately with all the uncertainty, I think we’re going to stay home this year for Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years’.”

Next week, we’ll look at possible alternatives…time to get creative!

May you continue to stay safe and healthy,