Holiday Family Gatherings During COVID-19

by GoodTherapy

Family gatherings during COVID-19 are going to look different than any other year. Americans are used to gathering around the table throughout the holidays with our entire family and celebrating one another and our traditions. The unfortunate reality of the pandemic means that a wrench has been thrown in these plans for many. Because the coronavirus spreads easily through person-to-person contact, it is not always safe to gather in large groups. So what is this year going to look like for family holiday gatherings during COVID-19?


Limit on Group Celebrations

COVID-19 regulations are decided at the state and local level, and many legislatures have set restrictions on how many people are allowed to gather in an indoor space. Celebrating the holidays with people who live in your household does not put you at a higher risk of spreading COVID-19. What does increase the risk is gathering with family that you do not live with. Depending on the safety precautions your extended family has taken during the pandemic, it is safer in some situations to visit with family than in others. Individuals should check what state regulations are in place and ensure that their family has not come in contact with the virus before planning an event. And there may be disagreement within the households of your family about what is safe and how to proceed, which can lead to strained relationships.

Broken Traditions

With many families deciding that it is not safe to have family gatherings during COVID-19, long-term family traditions will not look the same this year. Family gatherings during COVID-19 might not involve going to the same place you always go or seeing the same people you see year-to-year. Breaking tradition can be a challenge both practically and emotionally, especially on the heels of so many other changes this year.


Plan Ahead

If your goal is to continue with traditional holiday family gatherings during COVID-19, your entire family needs to plan ahead. This might mean each person that plans on coming will complete a two-week quarantine prior to the date of the gathering. This could also mean making alternative plans for your gathering that mitigate some of the risk. It may even mean your family chooses to gather virtually or make alternative COVID-19-safe plans for 2020.

Be Flexible

It seems that things are changing each day this year. If you are planning family gatherings during COVID-19, it is important to remain flexible. The number of cases is still growing in the United States which means that travel restrictions might soon be set in place like they were at the start of the pandemic. Remaining flexible with your plans will make it easier to adapt to these changes should they happen.

Think Generously When You Disagree

Many families may experience conflict, frustration, or disappointment as they wrestle with disagreements about how to handle family gatherings during COVID-19. Make the best decision you can for your household, and choose to look at your family members who may disagree with your choice with generosity. They are probably trying to make the best decision they can too. Even if you aren’t able to gather in person, you may find it valuable to grow your connection and build into those relationships from afar. Family Zoom meetings or group chats can be a great way to connect across the miles.

Know That This Is Not Permanent

The most important thing to remember as changes are being made to family gatherings during COVID-19 is that this is not permanent. Eventually, we’ll be able to gather again with our loved ones and once again participate in our holiday traditions. Even though your family gatherings during COVID-19 are different this year, they will not always be this way. Do what you need to do now to ensure many family gatherings in the future.

Talk with Your Therapist

If you’re feeling conflicted, disappointed, or out of sorts about all this, your therapist is a great resource. Since your therapist doesn’t have a vested interest in what you decide to do or how you feel about it, you can fully express yourself without worrying about hurt feelings. A therapist can offer a sounding board, encouragement, and useful coping skills to support you. Don’t underestimate the power of this resource as you figure out how to navigate family gatherings during COVID-19.

© Copyright 2020 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by, therapist in Seattle, Washington