The holiday season can be stressful under normal circumstances.  But this year, the pandemic brings additional challenges.  How will we spend time with family members and other loved ones this holiday season?

Arguments can easily erupt when family members have very different opinions about how to keep themselves and loved ones safe from the virus.

For example, perhaps you traditionally host the holidays, but your brother tells you he prefers to stay put this year with his wife and kids.  He doesn’t want to risk potentially spreading the virus to other family members, especially your elderly parents.  Your parents, meanwhile, are offended.  They feel your brother is needlessly avoiding the family and they’re disappointed they won’t get to see their grandchildren for the holidays.  For dicey situations like this and others, here are 4 tips to help keep the family peace this holiday season:

1.        What’s the plan?

First, as the traditional holiday host, decide with your spouse and/or any immediate family members what you feel comfortable doing this year.  For example, would you prefer to host a virtual holiday celebration?  If so, decide whether or not to deliver the meal to all family members beforehand.

2.        Reach out.

Once you decide how to host – or not to host at all – reach out to extended family members to let them know your decision and ask for their input.  For example, you might send a group text and schedule a time for a group phone or video call.

3.        Listen to understand.

Everyone needs and wants to feel heard and appreciated.  But not everyone knows how to express themselves in positive ways.

If a family member makes a snide remark, for example, recognize that lashing back defensively is like pouring gasoline on a fire.  Instead, really listen to how they feel and where they’re coming from.  Then you can explain back what you hear or simply acknowledge with “this sounds really important to you.”

Essentially, it’s best to stay focused on respecting the choices of other family members who bow out of family gatherings this year.

Taking the time to truly understand where others are coming from can make everyone less defensive.  And when you articulate your concerns, especially for any family members at high risk, others will be more open to understanding your perspective.  The goal is to work together to make plans that are acceptable to everyone.

4.        Stay flexible.

After speaking with extended family members, you might ultimately come up with additional or alternative ways to celebrate the holidays this year.  These might include outdoor activities or virtual traditions like watching holiday movies or shopping online together.

Overall, remember like anything, this too shall pass.  And in the moment, we can take this opportunity to find creative and new ways to maintain and strengthen our connections with loved ones.

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