Not going home for the holidays? Here’s how to break it to your family

Question: How do you tell your family you won’t be coming over for the holidays this year?

Answer: The best way to handle this is similar to any other event you attend. If you knew you would not be able to attend an event, the proper etiquette would be to RSVP as soon as you know; the same goes for your family. As soon as you know or as soon as you are even considering not going, then you should let your family know.

The important thing is to be confident in your decision and in relaying that decision to your family. Your family always is going to want you home to spend time with you, and if they think you are not set in your decision, they will try to make you reconsider.

The more confident you are, the easier it will be to tell your family.

Honesty is the best policy. You don’t want to get caught in a lie. Be resolute in your decision, and let your family members know that it is not them, but it’s time for something new, or you wish to keep your exposure low with COVID-19 numbers on the rise.

— Jules Martinez Hirst, etiquette expert

Answer: Telling your family that you won’t be joining them for the holidays can feel intimidating. But the reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic has solidly entered its ninth month, and everyone everywhere must face the fact that this holiday season is going to be completely different.

Coronavirus cases are rising in practically every state, and though there might be ways to commune with your family safely — provided you follow protocols and guidelines from the experts — the most responsible thing to do is to limit travel and stay home. These are simple facts.

So, my advice is to take a deep breath and call your family (yes — call them — it’s a tough conversation, and hearing your voice will be important). Go over the facts, tell the truth about how you feel, tell them how much you love them and maintain your boundaries.

Consider scheduling a special Zoom for the day, or maybe a cook-along for

pie-baking on the day before, or a game night over Zoom after Christmas dinner.

And before you hang up, consider starting a gentle conversation with your family about the holiday itself. 2020 has not just been the year of COVID-19; this incredible time of challenges and growth has propelled many Americans to investigate the ways in which their behavior contributes to systemic racism in our country. The holidays offer a vital time to investigate that.

— Emma Couling, freelance writer, moderator and host

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