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Navigating the Emotional Turf of Fall Family Gatherings

作者:admin 2020-09-18

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As one of 11 siblings, Charity Hoffman is used to spending Christmas with dozens of relatives at her parents’ house in Lansing, Mich. This year will be her 7-month-old daughter’s first Christmas and the family’s second holiday season without her brother, who died in 2019. She says she has a “big, loving family,” and being together helps them to grapple with the loss of her brother.

But while she had many socially distant porch and backyard visits this past summer, Dr. Hoffman, who is 35 and lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., said that for the first time, she will not be spending Christmas with her extended family, opting to be with only her husband and daughter. In addition to wanting to keep her baby safe, “we want to protect our community and not contribute to the spread,” she said.

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While some families have enjoyed the opportunity to gather relatively safely in backyards or other outdoor areas this spring and summer, the approach of colder weather makes fall and winter celebrations a much trickier proposition, particularly for those who have not formed a pandemic bubble or pod. Older people, who are highly vulnerable to the coronavirus, have been especially isolated during this time. New findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging at the University of Michigan, a recurring, nationally representative household survey, found that in June, 56 percent of those over age 50 said they sometimes or often felt isolated from others, more than double the percentage of respondents who felt that way in a similar poll in 2018. “Not being able to see their grandchildren because of the pandemic and keep themselves safe and their loved ones safe — that’s been really hard,” said Amy Goyer, AARP’s family and caregiver expert.

Time spent with family is considered a key source of meaning and satisfaction, according to two 2017 Pew Research Center surveys. Yet squabbles are erupting as family members have different perceptions of how to stay safe — and not expose others to the virus. Varying approaches are resulting in “a lot of tension within families and a lot of judgment,” said Vaile Wright, senior director for health care innovation at the American Psychological Association.

Some families may be more or less risk averse when it comes to engaging in decision-making that could potentially put others at risk of contracting the disease. There are gray areas, like whether it’s safe to eat indoors with those who aren’t living with you or send children to school, Dr. Wright said. “They’re questions without clear answers.”

For Dr. Hoffman, she said that it’s been hard to negotiate the situation, as family members disagree on the extent of precaution to take. “What’s too risky for someone is overly cautious for someone else,” she said. She added: “It’s not that anyone doesn’t think we need to be careful. It’s just the way we interpret conflicting messages from our leadership varies, so it’s not even like there are two sides, just varying degrees of risk mitigation.”

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Latest Updates: The Coronavirus Outbreak

Updated 2020-09-17T16:35:12.566Z
  • N.Y.C. will delay again the start of in-person classes for most students.
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  • Fewer people filed for unemployment insurance in the U.S., but the jobless ranks remain high.
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