When you’re newly divorced one of the more difficult obstacles to traverse can be the holidays. Particularly if you have children and holiday traditions they count upon, the happiest time of the year can seem anything but joyful.
While it’s always best when divorced families plan ahead and communicate with family members honestly well in advance of holiday gatherings, this year, the holidays may look different due to COVID-19 considerations.
Although the situation is in flux and may vary depending upon where you and your loved ones live, here are the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control about how to manage holiday gatherings. These suggestions are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which holiday gatherings must comply. When planning to host a holiday celebration, you should assess current COVID-19 levels in your community to determine whether to postpone, cancel, or limit the number of attendees.
There are several factors that contribute to the risk of getting infected or infecting others with the virus that causes COVID-19 at a holiday celebration. In combination, these factors will create various amounts of risk, so it is important to consider them individually and together:
- Family and friends should consider the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when considering whether to host or attend a holiday celebration. Information on the number of cases in an area can be found on the area’s health department website.
- Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with good ventilation, such as those with open windows or doors.
- Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
- The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability to reduce or limit contact between attendees, the risk of spread between attendees, and state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.
- Gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area. Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, or where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
- Gatherings with attendees who are not adhering to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, hand washing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than gatherings with attendees who are engaging in these preventative behaviors.
- Gatherings with more preventive measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented.
Keeping elderly or immune compromised family members safe may also be a concern. All of these considerations may add stress to any gathering, so it’s important to be mindful that individuals have differing levels of anxiety about the potential of being exposed. Shared custody arrangements detailing where children spend key celebratory days are often spelled out in divorce agreements. But be sure and talk with your ex and whomever is hosting the family gathering to find out what their expectations are for safety. Silver lining? For those who are newly separated and not quite ready to revel in holiday cheer, these safety considerations may also offer a natural way to avoid painful or awkward gatherings altogether.
Click here read more ideas about how to reclaim the holidays post-divorce.