It’s summer. With the 4th of July in recent memory, it’s interesting to see the ways in which this summer is similar to and different from a “typical” summer. Fireworks still went off across the country, but it’s likely you watched them on TV or from your backyard as opposed to a public park or a city street. If you’re anything like me, you usually get together with your family and friends on the 4th (and throughout the summer), but with so many risk factors this year, many families across the country decided against it. With a handful of states in the US experiencing a new surge of pandemic cases, it’s easy to feel like we might not be able to get together and celebrate summer the way we used to at all this year.
All hope is not lost! Family reunions might look a little different this summer, but there’s no reason we can’t adapt.
First things first— why get together at all? Organizing a meeting with many people can be exhausting when conditions are normal, let alone trying to do so in the middle of a pandemic. However, these unusual circumstances and the headaches they can cause still don’t outweigh the benefits associated with seeing your loved ones. Family reunions are an opportunity to share and preserve family heritage as well as continue and/or even establish family traditions. Additionally, meeting with family members after months of isolation is bound to be refreshing and uplifting. Something else to consider is that a gathering provides an opportunity for discourse across generations— the first half of 2020 has been tumultuous in terms of world health, politics, and civil rights issues and it can be valuable to participate in open conversations about current events (assuming this type of conversation is appropriate and doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable!)
It is likely that members of your family or friend group will have differing opinions on how they would like to meet and what they think is safe. It is important to understand what each person or family unit considers safe for them, and try to accommodate everyone. That being said, it’s important to communicate openly with all the potential attendees about the risks if they don’t already know them– some attendees might not understand why these precautions are important to you and your family. There are some options, like meeting online, that have very low physical risk but may not be possible for certain people. On the other hand, meeting in person may be impossible or ill-advised for a slew of reasons including location, age and health of the attendees, as well as actual legality. Because it is so complicated, be sure to gather each individual’s thoughts and address all concerns before a decision is on what to do to avoid making it uncomfortable or even impossible for people to participate.
The most risk-free option is one that people who have been working or taking classes from home might already be very accustomed to— using Zoom or some other virtual meeting service. Obviously this type of meeting allows you to negate all risks associated with COVID and is safe for everyone. Unfortunately, if any members of your family don’t have access to a stable internet connection or don’t have a device to use then this strategy won’t work. Additionally, this type of meeting is admittedly not as satisfying as meeting in person and may feel especially alien and uncomfortable for older family members.
The other option is meeting in person. Unfortunately this introduces a whole host of risks. The first step is knowing whether or not you or anyone attending might be sick, or have had any exposure concerns. This might seem obvious, but making sure all the risks surrounding the possibility of contacting the coronavirus are discussed will help ensure that the safest options are chosen. This includes accounting for risks related to travel! If everyone has agreed that it is safe to meet in person, the get-together should probably be outside. There is plenty of air circulation and people can decide how much distance they would like to keep between themselves and others— it’s also a good idea to decide amongst the participants whether or not they would like to wear masks (making sure to observe state and federal laws of course). Remember you can always include those who can’t attend via digital means so that they feel included and can be part of the celebration! Making memories and being with family is the main focus, even if the methods of participating are mixed between physical and digital.
Regardless of how you choose to meet with family this summer, make sure you do so safely and remember to appreciate every moment!