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Holidays 2020 Etiquette: How to handle the family

Deciding how to approach the holidays this year is not an easy conversation to have. We spoke to an expert about how to tackle it with emotions running high.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — So you’ve made the decision to play it safe during the holidays: no hosting, no large gatherings, no extended family.

Now what?

According to at least one local expert, your best strategy is to simply communicate your “boundaries” to your extended family.

“Honestly, you don’t have to give a real lengthy explanation. You can be polite but be very short and sweet. Thank the person for the invitation and note you are avoiding in-person gatherings due to COVID-19,” said Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer of the University of Minnesota.

Kreitzer is the founder and director of the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing and a professor in the School of Nursing at the U of M. She also earned her doctorate in public health. But perhaps it’s her title of “Grandma” that most qualifies her to offer advice during this challenging time.

“I have a new grandbaby that was born in April who lives out in Virginia that I haven’t seen. You know, I’m desperate to want to go out and see that grandbaby … But it’s just not worth the risk,” she told KARE 11’s Karla Hult earlier this week.

And on that point, others at the Minnesota Department of Health would agree.

14 Days … Minimum 

According to public health officials, COVID-19 symptoms may not develop for a full 14 days. That means it may also take 14 days – after exposure – for the symptoms to result in a positive test. People also need to account for how long it will take to receive the test results.

Given that, public health officials have strongly recommended minimizing your exposure.

“Avoid gatherings, especially indoor gatherings. Practice physical distancing, wear masks, wash your hands,” echoed Kreitzer.

Back to that family communication 

But then Kreitzer shifts into her other disciplines. After all, her areas of expertise include mindfulness-based stress reduction, integrative therapies and healing practices.

Kreitzer recommends people determine their own boundaries then communicate those boundaries to their families. And she suggests not airing the family conversation on social media.

“The script I would suggest, Karla, is thank the person for the invitation and just say you’re avoiding in-person gatherings due to COVID-19 right now. Nothing more needs to be said,” she said.


Kreitzer also recommends embracing – once again – the possibilities of Zoom and what it can do to connect families over the holidays.

“Cook together, have a family meal together, open gifts together. Share a holiday tradition or concert together,” she said, adding, “Instead of trying to recreate the same thing that you do year after year, create completely new experiences. And who knows, you might try something this year that might become a new lasting tradition.”

Oh, one other perk: Kreitzer believes people won’t feel the usual stress of the holidays, with fewer events and errands.

Back to that Grandma perspective 

Finally, Kreitzer acknowledges “it’s really hard to not be able to see your grandbabies," including her new granddaughter, Emma Mae. But the PhD and Grandma wisely notes … it’s all about a person’s attitude this unusual holiday season.

“I think people just have to really be patient and really recognize this year is going to be different. And just be ok with the fact that this year is going to be different,” she said.