Unfortunately, this Christmas is coming with more added pressure than usual.
There’s a heightened sense of worry and tension in the air.
It feels like Omicron is behind every corner ready to pounce and ruin our festive cheer.
This anxiety is being felt by families all over the country.
Excitement has quickly turned to fear and people are beginning to question the Christmas plans they have made.
Some are worried about inviting family members to their homes and may have reservations. These thoughts and subsequent questions are uncomfortable and the last thing anyone wants is conflict or tension.
In these cases, it is ok to ask if visitors have been vaccinated or have tested negative for Covid prior to arriving at your door?
And what if they refuse to take these measures? Are you right to reprimand them?
Psychologist Caroline Plumer says we must take the feelings of our family members into consideration, no matter what their answer is.
‘A big issue with our communication around vaccination and testing is that we seem to be confusing respect and agreement,’ she explains.
‘We may not agree with someone’s choice not to vaccinate or test, but that does not automatically give us the right to disregard their feelings.
‘Equally, if we do not wish to be vaccinated, that is our personal choice to make.’
However, Caroline notes that respect works both ways and if you feel uncomfortable, this is valid. You are perfectly within your rights to set the boundary that if someone has refused to get vaccinated or tested, they are not allowed inside your home.
‘It’s also vital that we respect the wishes of those who do not feel safe socialising in close proximity to us as a result of choices such as not getting vaccinated or tested beforehand,’ she says.
‘As with any tricky topic, both sides need to acknowledge their loved one’s opinions whilst keeping the focus on how you feel, rather than what you think the other person may be doing wrong.’
Language is important and Caroline says to be transparent with your concerns from the offset. Be firm, but do not attack.
She suggests: ‘Explain that while you recognise that any medical interventions are ultimately a personal choice, for you the need for vaccination and testing is important as you want to keep yourself and your family safe.
‘Tell them you wish to have a relaxed Christmas Day without fear of your nearest and dearest falling ill as a result.
‘If your family member is still unwilling to vaccinate or get tested, gently explain you wouldn’t feel comfortable risking theirs or anyone else’s health by gathering indoors, and perhaps suggest meeting up to take a walk at some point over the holiday period so you still get some quality time together.’
While the vaccination question can be arduous to debate, clinical psychologist Naomi Murphy says testing is an easier issue to address.
‘If you are hosting, you’re free to seek the reassurance of knowing there is no-one at the gathering carrying the illness,’ she explains.
‘But it might go down better as a request if you acknowledge your own fear of the illness and the threat of it is behind the request. People tend to react more positively to a request or an appeal rather than an instruction.
‘If you voice your anxiety then it will hopefully elicit empathy in your visitors. If you’re not hosting, then I guess you have to take the same approach to risk assessment as you would in any other situation where you’re sharing space with others.’
In times such as these, senior therapist Sally Baker says honesty is the best policy.
‘Express yourself and don’t hold back,’ she advises. ‘Say you’re worried about Omicron and want to minimise everyone’s risk over the holidays. Tell people your vaccine status and ask for people to share theirs too.
‘Avoid being judgemental but do say you’ve decided not to spend time with people who are not fully vaccinated until it’s safe.
‘Express regret if it feels appropriate to do so but if this is your line in the sand. Just be prepared to unavoidably upset some friends or family members.’
While it’s difficult to believe in hope right now, Sally says we have to stay positive no matter what and to remember what is most important in this life.
‘One day, who knows when, we will live in a world where Covid no longer dominates and restricts us,’ Sally urges.
‘During a time when so many lost so much, let’s all try very hard not to lose family members or friends.’
This sentiment is shared by Naomi, who believes that good is present is everyone but sometimes we have to put judgments aside and see people for who they are outside of their opinions.
‘If can sometimes be hard but try to focus instead on the things that you love and value in your family members,’ she adds.
‘The last couple of years has taught us that we can’t take social contact and connection for granted.
‘Life is definitely better when we are able to connect kindly with one another. So let’s do this in whatever way we can.’
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