National poll: More than half of parents say it is important for children to see the extended family and participate in holiday rituals, but many also want the spread of COVID-19 at family gatherings.
For some families, maintaining children of grandparents and other family members has been one of the most difficult steps to reduce COVID-19 risks.
And this can be especially true during the holiday season, as new cases of coronavirus are accelerating rapidly in the country and public health officials are discouraging the rallies to slow down the spread of the deadly virus.
Yet some parents may continue to continue Thanksgiving Day traditions with their children above reducing transfer risks, a new national poll indicates.
One in three parents say according to the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine, the benefits of the holiday gathering are worth spreading or getting the virus.
But parents weigh competitive priorities. Although more than half indicate it is very important for their child to see extended family and participate in family holiday traditions, but three-quarters also believe it is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during family gatherings.
“As COVID-19 cases increase, many families struggle with whether and how to continue their holiday traditions while balancing risks and benefits,” said Sarah Clark, co-director of Mott Poll, MPH
Half of the parents say COVID-19 has significantly reduced the amount of time their children spend with extended family members, and some are getting tired of these separations, Clark says.
“For many parents, holidays mean sharing special rituals in different generations and opportunities for children to connect with grandparents, cousins and other family members,” says Clark.
“Our report suggests that although many children spent less time with family members during the pandemic, some parents may find it difficult to abandon holiday gatherings to reduce COVID-19 risks.”
But with children returning to school and other activities in some communities, it can be especially dangerous for them to reunite with older adults who are at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill.
“Families may need to consider alternative, safer ways to celebrate and preserve traditions to keep loved ones safe,” says Clark.
The nationally representative report is based on responses from 1,443 parents of at least one child aged 12 and under.
Shorten the guest list to reduce the risk of transfer
Among parents whose children usually see an extended family on Thanksgiving, 61% still plan to meet in person for the upcoming holiday. But only 18% plan to involve people from outside the state this season, though 40% say events are usually people who travel that far.
Many parents who do plan to celebrate in person say according to the report they will use different strategies to keep children and guests safe.
Eighty-eight percent of parents say they will ask family members not to attend a Thanksgiving gathering if they have any COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. Meanwhile, two-thirds will not invite certain family members who have not taken safety measures, such as wearing a mask.
When assessing the safety measures of extended families, parents should inquire about adults and children. Given the differences in local and state regulations, parents should ask if cousins or other family members of school-going age attend personal classes and activities. If so, there should be specific questions about how well COVID-19 precautions are followed consistently.
Parents should anticipate that some of these conversations will be uncomfortable because there is unequal acceptance of precautions such as wearing masks, Clark says.
” An important strategy to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission is to limit the number of households that gather and carefully choose who they want to include in the Thanksgiving feast. Parents will also have to be vigilant about safety measures, ”says Clark.
Keep distance at meetings
Many parents also plan to take extra steps to protect older adults. Nine out of ten parents say grandparents and Thanksgiving gatherings usually include grandparents, and three-quarters of the parents will try to limit contact between their child and high-risk guests, including the elderly or people with medical conditions.
Two-thirds of parents also plan to ask guests as much as possible to keep social distance.
However, experts warn that enforcing these rules could be a challenge.
“It can be difficult to maintain the distance between children and adults at high risk during a multi-day visit or even during a long meal,” says Clark.
“Parents need to be realistic about how feasible it is to limit contact and think carefully about whether they should meet in person with high-risk family members.”
In families who prefer to see extended family or other guests, parents should also talk to children beforehand about how to celebrate safely, including a reminder about masks and social distance. They may also want to talk about proper “voice tags” by restricting singing or shouting, as these actions can more easily spread viruses.
It is also recommended that children do as much of the day outside of activities as possible, she says.
Parents should consider substitute traditions
Alternatively, families can consider creative ways to maintain family traditions without personal gatherings.
“The key for parents is to focus on elements of the celebration that represent family traditions or that seem most important to children,” says Clark.
Ideas can include:
- Talk to children about their favorite Thanksgiving food, decorations, or activities, and then use the input to plan a virtual celebration that includes family members in different locations.
- If children mention a particularly memorable holiday decoration that grandparents display, parents can encourage them to make their own version at home.
- If children prefer the pumpkin pie of a family member, parents can help children make it at home, possibly with video calls with grandparents and other family members who can guide them through the process.
- Arrange a group call or virtual gathering at a specific time for extended family to share stories or to have a family member bless before the Thanksgiving dinner.
‘We all know that large public gatherings pose major risks to the spread of COVID-19. But small and comfortable social gatherings where people feel ‘safest’ are also part of what fueled the transmission, ‘says Clark.
“As COVID-19 cases increase in every state, it is essential that all family members do their part to prevent further spread. This could mean that you are going to celebrate the holidays a little differently this year. ”