Keeping our own bodies and minds healthy during these uncertain times is vital, but we also have an important responsibility to look out for our loved ones. That starts with talking to them — but nearly 60% of people find it challenging to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak with their family members, according to a Thrive Global survey of 5,000 respondents about pandemic pain points. 

As challenging as it may be, communicating is important, especially with relatives who have chronic health conditions as well as older adults — people who have the highest risk of getting seriously ill from the virus and who need to heed the latest health advice. 

When we think those relatives aren’t taking the issue seriously enough, it might be tempting to, well, talk louder. But it’s important to avoid pressuring or badgering our relatives into changing their behaviors. “This leaves most people feeling angry and misunderstood or inclined to more strongly defend their position, which are all counterproductive,” Joshua Morganstein, Chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters, tells CNBC Make It. Instead, it’s best to approach loved ones with empathy, and be willing to listen. Research finds that listening with empathy is one of the most helpful behaviors during times of distress.

If you’re struggling to communicate with a loved one who isn’t understanding the intensity of the COVID outbreak or is simply resistant to the advice put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these Microsteps can help.

Be direct if you know a loved one is in an at-risk group.

If they are dismissive about taking precautions, be firm — but compassionate. Tell them, “I care about you, and that’s why I’m asking you to make this small change.” Sometimes coming from a place of care instead of authority is just the shift it takes to make your words easier to hear.

Share the facts with a relative who may be less informed. 

If you suspect a loved one is not following the news — or may be getting bad information — ask what they’ve heard and gently correct any misconceptions. Be sure not to take on a “told you so” or all-knowing tone. Tell them, “I care about you, and I want to make sure you have the information you need to stay safe.”

Schedule a regular check-in with your parent or relative. 

Set a daily reminder on your phone. Even a quick call or text will help them feel more connected in an isolating time, and will give you the opportunity to talk about any concerns or share any pressing information that could keep your loved one safe. 

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