How to explain to loved ones that you won't get together this Thanksgiving because of COVID-19

Psychologist says provide alternate options
Posted at 6:46 AM, Nov 23, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — It can be tough to face breaking long-held traditions, like gathering with friends and family members for the Thanksgiving holiday. But for some, it may be even harder to explain why you're choosing to stay home this year to loved ones who may feel hurt by the decision, or who don't take the pandemic seriously.

Valerie R. McClain, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist based in Tampa. She said there is a lot of stress surrounding the holidays with concerns about COVID-19 growing. Explaining the decision to stay home this year may be easy for some, but much harder for others.

"It's very frustrating for people to change a tradition and there's a lot of anger about that," McClain said.

So how do you begin the tough conversation of explaining why you won't be celebrating Thanksgiving with all of your extended family members to loved ones who may not understand? McClain said to start by acknowledging that this is hard for everyone.

"Probably the best way to do it is to be real," McClain said. "Show your own disappointment, your own frustration about it, and go there with them. So first, you're connecting on an emotional level and saying, hey, I'm as frustrated as you."

Then she said to bring up other ways you can stay connected this Thanksgiving holiday.

Some ideas include:

Virtual Thanksgiving | Celebrate with friends and family members by having a meal together on video chat. Facebook, Zoom, Skype and more all have a lot of options for the holiday.

RELATED| Zoom will drop its 40-minute time limit for Thanksgiving

Drive-By Drop-Off | Drive by and drop off food to high-risk family members. Wave out the window of the car to be able to see them in person, but staying outside and minimizing contact to prevent possible infection.

In the meantime, health departments across the United States are urging people not to rely on a negative COVID-19 test to feel safe attending a Thanksgiving celebration.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging people to stay home this Thanksgiving, but offer several guidelines if you do intend to gather anyway. These include staying outside if possible, staying six-feet apart, and wearing a mask.