Holidays bring good cheer and sometimes stressful exchanges.
Before sitting down for festive dinner, your checklist might include asking loved ones whether they’re vaccinated against COVID-19.
Michael Ungar, a family therapist and professor in the School of Social Work at Dalhousie, sees no point in avoiding a topic that could put yourself and others at risk. Instead, Dr. Ungar offers tips for preserving relationships with family and friends when views over vaccine statuses collide.
For each, Dr. Ungar draws parallels to his work with “push/pull factors” used to reach people whose ideological views and actions can harm others and where prevention is the goal.
“Never forget to maintain the relationship.”
With the pull factor, "what you’re doing is saying ‘I’m vulnerable’,” explains Dr. Ungar, who is also Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience and director of the Resilience Research Centre.
“As in, ‘Could you please for my sake vaccinate because I’d love to have you at the dinner table.’ So, it's more of a gentler, ‘I’d like to have a relationship with you. But please don’t put me at risk in that relationship.’”
“Keep yourself safe — while being kind."
Secondly, the push factor is saying “‘I can’t take the risk of contracting a deadly disease.’”
Dr. Ungar suggests proposing an alternative. You could say, “’For this year, could we do a zoom call over dinner, so that you feel part of this?’”
Dr. Ungar encourages people to ensure they are not making others feel excluded just because they’re not there. As he suggested in his recent blog post on Psychology Today, sending a care package shows you care while keeping yourself safe. "The push is there’s got to be some limits here on reasonable social behavior and expectations of being in a community or a family,” he says. “The boundary-setting [and] kindness provides a solution to the person. There’s something they can do to actually fix this, or they have the choice to simply not show up as well.”
“Where there's a possibility to compromise or be understanding, show it and empathize.”
Dr. Ungar thinks talking through fears about the vaccine is helpful for everyone.
“Ask them where they’re getting that information from,” he says. “It’s usually better to show some tolerance and just ask people why they think what they think and to ask them to explain it to you. And just ask them if there’s any room for compromise on this, given that their decision could put you at risk and you’d like a relationship with them still. That’s very much the pull towards you factor. It’s a gentler approach that says I value you in my life.”
comments powered by Disqus