How to ease the stress of reshaping Thanksgiving traditions for COVID-19

November 9, 2020

    The traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with a table packed full of extended family members, is not going to happen this year for many. With the spread of COVID-19 discouraging large gatherings of people, many families are rethinking the big feast.

    Kelly McClure, chair of the LaSalle University undergraduate psychology department, says this is causing some hard conversations among families.

    “This is a new experience. We’ve never had to do this before,” she said.

    The problem is not how to invite people to Thanksgiving. It’s how to not invite them, because of the possibility of spreading the virus. McClure says the best approach is to try and understand the other person’s perspective.

    “So if one person is saying they really want to get together, and the other is saying it’s probably not a good idea, not a safe thing to do right now, try to understand from their perspective why it’s so important to them," she said.

    Whether that person is the host, who is trying to protect everyone from the virus, or if it’s an older relative who is really looking forward to seeing the extended family, she says, “We’re all dealing with a lot of losses — loss of what’s normal, loss of our roles and routines.”

    “It’s not 'You can’t come.' It’s 'We’re not doing Thanksgiving this way this year.'"

    McClure says one way to do it differently this year, and still be inclusive, is to share one dessert recipe beforehand, and then show each other your creation in a virtual call on Thanksgiving Day.

    McClure says recreating a ritual — saying grace together or sharing a holiday cocktail virtually — could help to soothe any ruffled feathers.

    “Whatever ritual it is for a family, that’s important. If they can recreate that somehow, that will be helpful," she said.

    She says one thing to remember is that there will be an end to the pandemic. We just don’t know when it will be.

    “There’s so much uncertainty about when we’re going to be able to get together safely again, but I do think it’s fair to say, 'I plan to do this next year,' or 'I hope to pick this up again next year.'"

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