For many families, this year will be the first time relatives meet in person for a reunion since the coronavirus pandemic triggered lockdowns and travel restrictions. Anticipation is high.
Although some families went virtual with their reunions, using Zoom and other online platforms that emerged during the pandemic, there’s no substitute for being able to give your grandmother a real hug.
Still, the pandemic is far from over, and highly contagious COVID-19 variants have caused a recent surge in virus cases and hospitalizations across the country.
So how should people approach sensitive issues surrounding in-person reunions, whether small or large — such as whether to require vaccinations, masks and negative test results — without causing a family feud?
Talking about masking and vaccinations
If families want attendees to be vaccinated or wear masks, they should request that from the start in a nonauthoritative way, and then people can choose to attend or not, says Sandra Calzadilla, a licensed mental health counselor who works for the online therapy platform Choosing Therapy. She suggests some sample language: “This may not fall into line with your beliefs, but we want to make sure this is a safe event for everyone. If you’re not able to attend due to our requirements, we will be streaming the event.”
If people balk at attendance requirements or accuse planners of promoting government conspiracies, reiterate your reasons for concern, Calzadilla says. “Say, ‘We love you all and we want to see you, but we want to make sure 50 people don’t get sick. It’s for the safety of the babies, the grandmas and grandpas. This is not political; this is about health.’ ”
This summer, about 30 female cousins in the Groshek family will gather for an in-person reunion — dubbed Chickfest 2022 — on the ancestral farm in central Wisconsin.