A Tough Call for Families: How to Spend Thanksgiving

Her mother, who lives in California, also wanted Mendiola and her family to come over, but Mendiola declined the invitation because she said her mother wasn’t likely to quarantine for two weeks beforehand.

At this point, her mother seems resigned to spending the holiday by herself.

I guess I’m going to be alone, she often tells her daughter.

“Yeah, it’s fun,” Mendiola said dryly.

Craig Sawchuk, a clinical psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said he’s seeing similar dramas play out among his clients, some guilt prevents them from setting boundaries with their relatives.

If the feelings of guilt are strong enough, they can become “incredibly sticky and also overwhelming” to the point where some people may decide to violate their own values in order to avoid feeling like they’re disappointing someone, Dr. Sawchuk said.

“Anytime we make decisions in our life that are consistent with our values, in the end we’re always going to be in a better place,” he added. “You are not responsible for the emotions, the well-being, the choices, the behaviors of others. You may play a small role, but maybe not nearly as much as you feel.”

If your relatives are expecting a visit on Thanksgiving — or if they’re assuming you are going to host dinner like you normally do — it can be tough to tell them that it’s not happening. On the flip side, it can also be disappointing if a relative wants to stay home and is resistant to any sort of compromise.

The experts said that it’s better to talk it out now instead of waiting until the very last minute, like Thanksgiving week or the day of.


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