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Saving Christmas from Covid

Saving Christmas from Covid

It’s 2020, and Covid concerns have certainly reigned throughout the last nine months. For some, it has meant personal illness with varying degrees of impact. For others, it has been life and death. Many are grieving the loss of loved ones this Christmas, which is heartbreaking and difficult to process for all of us. But even in families where no illness has occurred, Covid is taking its toll in other ways. As the country has openly wrestled with what types of gatherings are appropriate and what protocols to take, privately, families are engaged in their own battles. Christmas has only heightened the conflict. Which set of parents do we visit? One set practices social distancing but the other set, not so much. Do we allow aunts and uncles to join us? Our kids want to get together for a few days. Do we require quarantining and negative test results before they are allowed to come home?  We are making all types of decisions we’ve never had to make before. If that isn’t hard enough, what happens when one of us feels like the choice between who is acceptable and who is not is inequitable? Suddenly, it gets very personal. More and more conversations this year sound like, “you just don’t like my family.” The season that usually offers hope for peace begins to take on tones of war, which is a totally different kind of heartbreak.

If your family is like so many others, how can you navigate this challenging and tender issue?

1.  Remember – Covid is your enemy. Not your spouse, not your child, not your parent.

2.  Think about your family member’s perspective. Can you see their point, or are hurtful emotions and grief getting in the way?

3.  Reflect on your own response. Are you blocking the conversation because the answer is difficult and undesirable? Or are you open to hearing feedback regardless of where the answer leads?

4.  Ask yourself,  “Do I have an agenda here? Am I really trying to avoid my in-laws and the loud, pushy uncle who seems to make a mess of things every year, or am I convinced there is a threat to the rest of my family?” Or the opposite, “Am I trying to avoid hurting my loved one’s (parent, child, sibling) feelings and am succumbing to pressure even though I agree with my spouse it could be risky?”

5.  Acknowledge that your loved one may have a different understanding. Give grace and consider that they are making decisions based on their own convictions. For the most part, people are trying to do what they feel is right, even if their conclusions do not make sense to you.

6.  Are there other options? Many families held gatherings outside at Thanksgiving. Although it may be too cold at Christmas to do this, there may be other alternatives. Maybe it’s a Zoom Christmas carol sing-a-long. It could be opening gifts together online. It might be renting a large space so everyone can spread out while wearing masks.

7.  When discussing with your spouse, make sure you come from a place of love and willingness to hear. Express your concerns from the heart, without defensiveness if possible.

8.  When discussing your decisions with extended family, begin with respecting their view. Let them know you understand how hard the decision is. Express your regret and validate how much you love them.

9.  Realize that even though you may be attempting to practice patience and non-defensiveness, your loved one may not respond in the same way. Plan ahead for ways you can ground your emotions without responding in anger.

10. Understand that these conversations are taking place in almost every home. You are not the exception.

This Christmas, as we reflect on the words angels spoke to the shepherds as they announced the birth of our Savior – “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace to those on whom His favor rests let us also contemplate how we can extend His peace into our own homes. Let us give grace and offer peace to the ones we love the most.