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How to let loved ones know your Thanksgiving gathering is off

Posted at 7:44 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 20:44:12-05

GREEN BAY, Wis (NBC 26) -- The choice of whether to get together with extended family on Thanksgiving is a tough decision for many. It's a discussion that healthcare professionals and psychologists are talking about in regard to how to get the conversation going with family before it gets too late.

Meeting up with friends and family on Thanksgiving will likely not happen for millions of Americans this year. But that being said, there will be folks who can't let go of the tradition even in light of the pandemic.

"Some people are throwing caution to the wind and are just going to pretend this doesn't exist," says Dylan Valentine a Nurse Practitioner at Bellin Health.

Valentine says he hopes families will keep their gatherings confined to their family's household or at most a couple of guests. He says the risk of spreading COVID-19 right now is very realistic in group settings.

"If having a gathering means we're going to be having grandparents, aunts, uncles and all the siblings and in-laws, I don't think it's worth flirting with... We can't neglect these festivities and traditions we all have, but it's going to look different this year especially if you want everybody at the table next year."

And if you're one of the many worrying about how to call off the holiday altogether, or keep it more limited than in the past, UWGB psychology professor Ryan Martin says you should know you're not alone.

"It's really easy to take these things personally. I think this is a really stressful time for people and a big part of why it's so stressful is there are really differing levels of comfort.

Ryan Martin, a professor of psychology at UWGB says when you're telling loved ones you're having limited or no company this year, the last thing you want to do is tell folks is how their job or social life is concerning.

"What someone might hear is, I'm not living my life the way I should. So it becomes a thing people end up taking more personally than they probably should."

Martin says to focus the conversation on where you are coming from, and how your feelings are the furthest thing from a personal statement about someone else. He adds that you should plan ahead for the uncomfortable conversation by preparing what you want to convey in an open and honest way.

"Let them know, hey, I understand this might hurt you and that is not my intent, I just want to be careful and let you know where I'm coming from.... I'm going to prioritize health and safety right now but very soon when this is done I'm going to prioritize our relationship and our friendship."

It's the time of year we're all supposed to be gearing up for what we're most thankful for. Unfortunately, in 2020 many of us won't be doing that in the comfort of our closest friends and family members.

"This is just another thing about this health crisis that really, really is frustrating and saddening," says Martin.

"I think modifying and practicing these gatherings electronically or in a very small gathering would be more appropriate," adds Valentine.