For many, Thanksgiving means gathering around the dining table with people they love, sharing food and friendship, maybe some politics, while they fill and refill plates and glasses. This year, however, to no surprise, health officials are suggesting cautious contact.
After months of isolation, how can people be safe and be together on vacation? (If you do decide to go on a trip, please read our guide on Avoiding Travel Caused by Covid first.)
This doesn’t have to be an either-or situation, said Scott Roth, PsyD, a licensed child and family psychologist in Cranbury, NJ
“I think people tend to say, ‘Well, either we’ll stay home or we’ll see our family,” Dr. Roth told Medical Daily. “There’s a scale and … we can make decisions that are Instead of just saying, “I have to see the family or I don’t have to see the family,” we can think in between and try to find a more convenient arrangement. “
Thanksgiving plans can be difficult as we balance emotional health, physical health, and family responsibilities. “I think we all need to take an individual look at our situation and the safety of our bubbles, and make decisions based on all of these things,” he said.
That year, the CDC classified Thanksgiving as a possible high risk activity. To reduce the risk, the agency has offered tools and ideas to promote safe vacation celebrations.
A school bus called Sonntag
For some families, logistical concerns are not as problematic. Jennifer Bateman and her wife, Kaitlin Porter, plan to drive into the driveway of Kaitlin’s childhood home in Maryland and park there. And live there too.
She and her two children aged 14 and 4 have a converted school bus called Someday at home. They left their stationary Atlanta residence on the bus last October and have been traveling across the country since then. Bateman is a developmental psychologist with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Porter worked as a consultant for the CDC but is now dedicated to life on the streets with her family. They teach their two children at home.
On this Thanksgiving Day, Ms. Bateman and Ms. Porter let family members set the pace.
“If we look at the extended family, we’ve really followed their leads,” said Ms. Bateman. Although the school bus is a “quarantine machine”, they let their hosts take the precautionary measure. Sometimes relatives just want to sit outside. In other situations, a fireplace is set up in the driveway. “We lived in the driveway … and only met at night in the driveway right around the fireplace,” said Ms. Porter.
For other families, the choices are not so straightforward. For Alanna Harding, a 24-year-old corporate development and investment associate, a traditional Thanksgiving Day has 15 to 20 people gathering for football and food at her grandparents’ home.
“I think we will probably do exactly the same thing as always,” said Ms. Harding. “My grandmother is wary of the coronavirus because she is in that age group.” In my extended family, I think there are very different views. “
How people deal with the coronavirus is personal. Some people mask themselves from the moment they leave the house to the moment they are home. Others don’t. Hence, families can obviously argue about how best to manage Thanksgiving.
Dr. Roth suggests seeing the other person’s point of view and offering alternatives to spread a situation.
“If it becomes a source of conflict, a dynamic has likely emerged … earlier,” said Dr. Roth. “We will not agree with anyone. But we can empathize with their position. We could see where they were coming from and just say, “We have to do what is best for ourselves and our families.”
Ms. Harding often wears a mask at family gatherings and is sometimes asked why. Her answer is, “For me, I wear it for Nana. And then it usually doesn’t get a lot of feedback. “
Pass the cake, beware of the political tiffs
Between the pandemic and the recent U.S. election, there is plenty of fodder for a possible holiday flare up. But conflict can be productive or destructive, said Dr. Roth.
“Productive conflicts end in a place where there is empathy. There is understanding and there can even be solutions to problems. Regarding disruptive conflicts, “You don’t want people tossing pumpkin pie,” he said.
One way to deal with conflict is to also establish written rules for engagement in relation to dinner issues. Dr. Roth suggested saying beforehand: “We will not bring up the conflicts of the past that led us to this conflict. It will just be each of us who shares and respects opinions.
But sometimes there are things that are better left unsaid. “There are some battles that you just cannot win,” said Ms. Harding. Her Thanksgiving wish is that the family “be wise with the risk, know that the risk will be there and acknowledge it, not deny it and be thoughtful in our actions”.
This year, sharing Thanksgiving with family and friends can look like anything: a picnic, a zoom session, even a marathon to Turkey. At home or on the internet, Thanksgiving is more than turkey and stuffing. It’s about connection, and it’s still possible despite the pandemic.
“I think in a normal week it doesn’t feel weird living on the bus,” said Ms. Bateman.[But] if you try a [Thanksgiving or] Christmas on a bus, or trying to do those other things that you’re so used to being with friends, family and all these rich traditions that it gets really difficult. “
Dr. Roth: “We’ll be outside all the time, with lots of heaters and a fire pit, and that’ll be Thanksgiving.”
Sabrina Emms is a science journalist who has worked as a researcher studying the way bones are formed.