As COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the U.S., experts warn that the fallout of Thanksgiving travel has yet to be fully realized. It’s likely that cases and hospitalizations will spike in the coming weeks due to those early holiday gatherings. Unfortunately, the grim numbers won’t effectively put a halt to holiday travel around the country. And your family may still be expecting you at their table this year. So, you may find yourself with the added stress of telling your family that you won’t be traveling to celebrate with them in person this year. Follow these guidelines to help you get through this tough conversation.

Avoid an emotional argument.

Declining to attend a family gathering isn’t easy, even when it’s for the sake of public health and safety. Unfortunately, your negative reply may elicit an emotional reaction despite being rooted in sound logic. To mitigate this, frame your reasoning with a clear statement that’s not up for debate: “I have decided not to come home this holiday season because doctors and medical experts say COVID risks are too high.”

Remind your loved ones that your decision is based on your safety and theirs. Let them know that you still love and care about them and that it isn’t an easy decision to say no.

Don’t wait until the last minute.

A quick way to upset any holiday host is by changing plans at the last minute. Let your family know as soon as possible that you won’t be visiting home this holiday. If you’ve made a last-minute decision to stay home, be direct and honest when you break the news. Trying to soften the blow with another excuse is only likely to backfire later.

Be firm, but not pushy.

It’s only natural to want your family to play it safe for the holidays. However, you can’t expect that they’ll completely call off their plans just because you’re not attending. While you might offer some insight on the potential risks of a holiday gathering, you should not expect to vastly swing opinions when you break the news that you’re staying home.

You may also get a lot of pushback from well-meaning relatives. For example, your parents may try to reassure you that it’ll just be a small gathering with close family. Even still, the CDC has warned that small gatherings with others outside your household can contribute to the rise in cases. Though your family may have every intention of being safe and careful, you should remain steadfast in your decision to stay home.

Offer an alternative way to connect.

While you may not be able to connect with family in traditional ways this holiday season, there are still lots of things you can do to feel close to your loved ones. Offering a COVID-safe alternative to your normal family traditions may help everyone feel more positive and closer together this season. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Organize a gift exchange by mail.
  • Stream holiday movies together.
  • Pool resources to donate to a favorite charity or provide gifts for a family in need.
  • Open presents over a video call.
  • Record personalized holiday video messages for your loved ones.
  • Send care packages of festive baked goodies.
  • Share your favorite recipes so everyone can enjoy the same holiday meal in their own homes.

While the holidays may not look like they usually do, MeMD wishes you and your family the best this season! When you need urgent care, mental healthcare, or preventive care, you can count on us for convenient, web-based doctor visits anywhere in the U.S.


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