As the holiday season kicks off and coronavirus cases escalate across the country, families have been trying to decide whether the trip over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house is a good idea or not.
The choice to spend Thanksgiving without family is an understandably difficult one to make. But the choice should be pretty clear: stay home and continue to quarantine.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a travel warning, advising that traveling to gather with family is not the right thing to do during a rapidly-spreading pandemic.
Everyone in a family should do their part to prevent the spread of the virus and protect those at greatest risk, even if it means doing things differently this year.
The virus has already isolated family members from each other and significantly reduced the amount of time children spend with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. For many of us, this has been one of the most frustrating parts of the pandemic. Though people are growing tired of it, the reality of COVID is still with us.
It may be difficult to get families to follow the CDC’s guidance. A third of parents surveyed in a C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine before the CDC announcement said that they believed the benefits of being with family and continuing Thanksgiving Day traditions were worth the risk of getting or spreading the virus. The findings are based on responses from more than 1,400 parents of a least one child age 12 or under.
Half of the parents surveyed said they believed it is important for their children to see extended family and share holiday traditions. Seventy-five percent were willing to say that it is important to take measures to prevent the spread of COVID at family gatherings, a delicate balance for sure.
Find ways to keep family traditions alive without gathering in person this year.
Even before the CDC guidance was issued, a high percentage of parents (88 percent) reported they would ask family members not to attend Thanksgiving festivities if they have symptoms of COVID or have been exposed to the virus. About 66 percent said they would not invite family members who do not practice safety precautions such as wearing a mask.
Children have returned to school face-to-face as well as other activities in many parts of the country, increasing their exposure to SARS-Co-V2 and so making it risky for them to be with their grandparents or other potential guests who are at high risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus. Many schools are closing again in light of the current rise in COVID-19 cases.
In many families grandparents are an integral part of Thanksgiving gatherings. Seventy-five percent of parents said they would make an effort to limit contact between children and their grandparents as well as other high-risk individuals. However, parents should ask themselves how realistic it will be to accomplish this, especially if an all-day or multi-day celebration under the same roof is planned.
Conversations among family members about how to celebrate Thanksgiving are likely to be uncomfortable since there is considerable disagreement about the value of safety precautions.
For families that still plan to get together, children will need to be told the importance of following safety guidelines, such as wearing a mask or maintaining distance from others, particularly elders. They may also need to be cautioned about yelling and singing, activities that can spread the virus.
Sarah Clark, director of the poll, explained in a statement, “A key strategy to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission will be to limit the number of households who get together and choosing carefully who to include in Thanksgiving celebrations. Parents will also have to be vigilant about safety.”
As unfortunate as postponing a family gathering is, there are ways to keep family traditions alive without gathering in person this year. Focusing on aspects of the Thanksgiving celebration that represent those traditions or those that are important to children can make this year’s alternative celebration more enjoyable.
“We all know that large public gatherings carry great risks of spreading COVID-19. But small and casual social gatherings where people feel most 'safe' are also part of what has been fueling transmission,” Clark said in a statement.
Conversations among family members about how to celebrate Thanksgiving are likely to be uncomfortable since there is considerable disagreement about the value of safety precautions such as wearing masks. Parents should be prepared for any arguments that may ensue and hope family members can agree to disagree without putting a damper on the holiday spirit.
Cases of COVID-19 are increasing across the country at the most inopportune time for families wanting to gather during the holidays, but it is important that everyone in a family do their part to prevent the spread of the virus and protect those at greatest risk, even if it means doing things differently this year.
You can view the results of this C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine here.