Families navigate decisions about Thanksgiving gatherings

Published: Nov. 23, 2020 at 8:57 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Families are finalizing their Thanksgiving plans this week. For some, traditions will changed this year because of coronavirus.

“Typically Thanksgiving is just chaotic and exciting because there’s so many people,” said Esther Nelson.

Esther Nelson said, this year, her large family’s biggest holiday will be different. Instead of having 30 or more people at the table, they’ve decided to gather in a smaller group.

“If we can control having less change, that’s the way we want to go with it,” Nelson said.

Nelson said, even with a dozen close family members in her parents’ home, there is still a level of risk.

“I mean, how horrible would that be if, because we got together, my parents got sick and they got really sick?” she said.

To the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, that possibility isn’t worth it, which is why it is recommending no in-person get-togethers for groups that don’t live together.

“The choices we make this year are really going to affect who is at our table next year,” said Cara Erwin.

Erwin said, for those who do decide to gather for Thanksgiving, small sacrifices could make a big difference. The health department encourages separating tables and asking guests to bring their own food and drinks.

“If they don’t live in your household, we still want you to practice that safe distancing. Make sure you’re staying six feet away from them and you’re masking when possible,” she said.

Erwin said, make your plans ahead of time so there’s no frustration in your family.

Dr. Shelly Farnan, with Burrell Behavioral Health, said these can be tough decisions to make and difficult conversations to have.

“Some of us are feeling as though we need to hold off one more holiday because we want to celebrate many holidays to come. The other viewpoint is, we are tired of losing time with our loved ones, we don’t feel like we have another year to go,” Farnan said.

Farnan said compassionate listening can go a long way.

“Lean into these perspectives without judgment, and that gets really hard, but when we put that judgement in there on top of how exhausted our survival states are and how exhausted our brains are, that’s when the tension rises really quickly,” she said.

She said there’s nothing typical about this year, but the traditions of understanding and kindness can remain.

Through the pandemic, Burrell Behavioral Health started the Be Well Community, offering daily interactive sessions on its Facebook page.

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