How to tell family that you don't feel comfortable meeting up this Christmas

The news is out – Christmas isn’t cancelled after all.

After a month-long lockdown in England and local tier restrictions returning from December 2, the government has announced that everyone across the UK will get a break from the ban on meeting up from December 23 to 27.

During that time period, up to three households will be able to mix.

But just because the rules allow it, it doesn’t mean you absolutely should see your loved ones.

Coronavirus isn’t going to stop spreading just because it’s Christmas so it is up to each family to assess the risk and decide if they want to meet up.

For some, it might lead to arguments – telling family you don’t want to see them is tough at any time of year, but particularly at Christmas after a long period of being apart.

But being together might mean travelling a long distance on a crowded train or on a plane, where it is difficult to social distance and you might feel uncomfortable.

And those with health conditions making them vulnerable, travelling or mixing with others might still feel it’s too risky, despite the government rules. Some may also feel uncomfortable about putting elderly relatives at risk of catching the virus, particularly if they are travelling from somewhere where cases are high to somewhere where cases are lower.

But families don’t always see eye-to-eye and you might view the virus differently to others who might think you are overreacting by staying away.

Rebecca Lockwood, a mindset coach and neuro-linguistic programming practitioner, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘It is a difficult situation we are in due to the opposing views of what is safe to do and what is not. We must keep that in mind when having a conversation with anyone about the current affairs.’

Plan the conversation

Now the rules have been announced, your family will be expecting you to commit to some solid plans.

If you sense the conversation with them might be difficult, have a think about what you are going to say and set out your reasons for not wanting to meet.

Look at different aspects for your individual situation – your travel options, the costs, your own health or the health of someone you would be meeting.

Rebecca adds: ‘If they ask, you can share your feelings and views on the situation without it being uncomfortable.’

Thinking about these before you speak to your family makes it easier to present all the facts and explain your reasons why. They may argue that the government allows it but be clear that just because the rules allow it it, it doesn’t mean the risk goes away.

Psychotherapist Noel McDermott explains: ‘You can point out that although these new rules allow mixing they are a compromise which accepts that infections will spike as a result but it’s a spike the government are happy to accept because of the previous period of lockdown.

‘It’s perfectly reasonable for you to make your own health assessment and decide to have a Covid safe Christmas.’

Dealing with anger

While your family might be disappointed but understanding, others could be angry and feel that you are using the situation as an excuse not to see them.

Rebecca adds: ‘It is natural for people to feel upset and possibly angry when someone has a different opinion than them and they do not understand it.

‘If someone does get angry about your choices, calmly remind them that you understand their point of views, it’s nothing personal and you also have your own views. Try not to get too emotional about the situation and remind yourself that people just think differently.’

Noel adds that it is important to put your wants and needs first. Difficult conversations about where you are spending Christmas aren’t new and you need to make sure that you will enjoy the holidays too, without worrying about everyone else.

He says: ‘Although the questions this year about Christmas seem to revolve around Covid, they are very much the same issues that happen every year. Who will I spend the time with? How will I get my needs met in the complex of obligation and expectation? With addition of the health issues thrown into the what would be complex web of the ‘festive season’. 

‘Have a simple set of rules about what you plan to do and apply them across the board. Try not to meet everyone’s needs and forget your own.’

Give them an alternative

While Christmas might be off the cards for you right now, remind your loved ones that vaccines are coming and you can commit to a family gathering when it is safe.

Noel adds: ‘It’s more than possible to plan family celebrations for next year when we have the rollout of the vaccine and offering something like this may well help to smooth things over. Remind people there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel now, so this year is a one off.’

For this year, make the best of the situation. Talk to them about how you can still see each other through video calls, open presents together and even eat at the same time.

It might not be the same as meeting in person but it is a way to share this special time, while keeping everyone safe and comfortable.

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