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How to Handle Holiday Invites During COVID-19

Holiday Invites in 2020

The holiday season and social invitations might be ramping up, but so are the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in Iowa. For many people, this requires making a choice between social distancing and being with loved ones during the holidays. This can result in some difficult but necessary conversations. Kevin Carroll, vice president of Behavioral Health Services at UnityPoint Health – Des Moines shares advice on how to have these conversations with friends and family.

Conversations About COVID-19 are Important

Each person views attending social gatherings during COVID-19 differently. This can make the choice between attending a holiday event and staying home even harder. Having these important conversations about making appropriate choices early on allows everyone the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns. Talking about social gatherings with friends and family will help you feel more confident about your decision.

It may feel awkward or uncomfortable when speaking up, but open communication is essential for healthy relationships and understanding.

Steps for Talking to Your Family About Social Distancing and Gatherings

  1. Arrange a time to chat. This could be done virtually at an agreed-upon time.
  2. Establish expectations. Make it clear everyone can openly share their thoughts and ideas. Make decisions together, allowing each person to contribute to the conversation.
  3. Ask questions. Open-ended questions allow for discussions to reach a solution. Try questions like these: What are you comfortable doing? What are your concerns? What will help you feel supported?
  4. Keep the focus. Make sure the conversation doesn’t go off-topic.
  5. Reach a solution. Decide on an outcome for the situation. Maybe this holiday season each household joins for a video call instead of gathering in person.
  6. Thank everyone for participating. This is the easiest part!

If You’re Turning Down an Invitation — Here’s How to Handle It

If you don’t feel comfortable accepting a holiday invitation, try saying:

For casual relationships: “We’d love to come, but we’re going to celebrate with just our household. Thanks for the invite — enjoy your time!”

For close relationships: “I really appreciate your invite, but this year we’ve decided it’s best if we celebrate with just our household. Maybe we can all get together on a video call? Thank you for thinking of us and we can’t wait to see everyone when it is safe to do so!”

Not All Conversations Will Go as Expected

Some conversations will lead to arguments, but they can still end with respect and understanding.

If the conversation is getting heated and tension is starting to rise, take a step back

  • Share that you are feeling frustrated.
  • Take some time to think and collect your thoughts.

Try saying:

"I need a minute to reset. I’m upset and I don’t want to say something I might regret. Please give me a few minutes. This conversation is important."

Relationships can be maintained, even if you and your friend or family member don’t have the same stance on social distancing.

Although it can be tough to stay home from holiday events, social distancing is one of the ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. It’s everyone’s responsibility to wear a mask, wash our hands and avoid social gatherings when possible. All of these efforts help to keep our community healthy and safe in hopes of seeing our loved ones soon!

For more COVID-19 resources, check out our website at unitypoint.org/desmoines/care.

You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates. See more on COVID-19 here.

Kevin Carroll, LMFT, EdD, FACHE

Dr. Kevin Carroll is the VP of behavioral health services for UnityPoint Health - Des Moines. He has also served in clinical and leadership roles at Broadlawns and Orchard Place. Dr. Carrollis a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Fellow with the American College of Health Executives.