Social distancing and the late-fall and winter holiday season with family will soon collide. And everyone gathering with extended family during the holidays will be unsure of how to proceed to some extent. After all, these are the first end-of-year and new year celebrations since the pandemic began in earnest for Americans.

In light of the new normal this holiday season, how should we celebrate? That’s a tough question since you might get ten different opinions from ten people you asked. Still, here are some guidelines worth considering this year when it comes to social distancing and spending time with family during holidays.

Respect the Views of Other Family Members on Social Distancing

Sadly, we live in a very divided nation at the moment. It can often feel like there’s no middle ground. Because of this, different views on social distancing among extended family members are bound to arise.

Do your best to be respectful of views on social distancing that differ from your own. That means refraining from disparaging discussions of family members who don’t hold the same opinions as you. It also means avoiding bullying or belittling family members into doing social distancing like you think somebody should do it.

Don’t Give In To Peer Pressure

The other side of the coin is doing what’s best for your family regarding social distancing. If that means avoiding a family gathering for the health of your family and others, stick to your convictions. If that means wearing a mask, follow through without apology.

Decide beforehand what is OK and what isn’t for your family regarding social distancing. Remember that just because you value social distancing doesn’t mean other family members will feel the same way.

Will that be OK with your family, or will it be a deal-breaker this holiday season? These are all important things to discuss beforehand with your significant other, spouse or children.

Once you walk into a family environment, you and your partner don’t want to have different views on how someone should practice social distancing. That will only show divisions in front of others and make the partner not originally from the extended family feel alienated or put down. Not exactly a good recipe for a happy, healthy time with your partner this holiday!

Consider an Outside Gathering

Indoor gatherings pose the most significant risk when it comes to COVID-19. For that reason, if you feel you must get together in person, consider doing an outdoor get-together at a park or in a family member’s backyard. As things currently look, however, even meeting outdoors for the holidays may not be possible in many regions.

It may seem strange to do things differently this year, but it’s worth taking extra precautions for everyone involved. Family traditions are great, however, they cease being so if they place your family’s wellbeing at risk. It’s OK to break from tradition. You may find added adventure and enjoyment from meeting uniquely and unexpectedly too.

In her “Psychology Today” article entitled 6 Tips for Managing Conflict Over Social Distancing, Andrea Bonior Ph.D. shares the following about thinking outside the box regarding social gatherings:

“There may even be ways of gathering “in person” that maximize safety (distanced squirt gun fights from separate yards, anyone?) The more creative solutions you are willing to explore, the more opportunities to connect in a way that works for everyone.”

Follow Medical Guidelines

It can be easy to let your guard down with social distancing regulations when spending the holidays with extended family. This is supposed to be the one place you can feel comfortable after all.

Still, the best thing you can do for everyone involved is to follow your area’s medical guidelines. If extended family members ostracize you for following protocol, you have every right to leave the family gathering early. Toxic family holidays are best avoided altogether. Besides placing yourself in potential legal trouble, you could also put loved ones in harm’s way by ignoring laws.

Leave Politics at the Door

As you know all too well, just because you’re from the same family doesn’t necessarily mean you have the same political views. And unfortunately, the coronavirus has been politicized. Make every effort to leave politics at the door if you visit with extended family for the holidays if you know there will be divided viewpoints.

It’s not worth injuring your relationships over politics. Also, avoid turning the mask versus no mask thing into a political game. This is real life and the stakes are far higher than they may appear. Pandemic safety should always take precedence over political views.

Are Social Distancing and the Pandemic Stressing You Out? Consider Counseling

If so, you aren’t alone. Anxiety, excess stress and sadness to the point of depression have been common for many during the pandemic. If you’re struggling right now, there’s no reason to feel ashamed. Just know that Valencia Relationship Institute is here for your family during these challenging times.

We can assist you with counseling in Valencia, CA and therapy in Burbank/Toluca Lake, CA. Virtual counseling (teletherapy) is also an option if that would be more convenient, you’re outside of our geographical service range or it makes the best sense given the pandemic.

Whether you’re interested in family therapy, individual counseling, relationship therapy or marriage counseling, VRI is here for you. Feel free to schedule an appointment with us at your convenience.