COVID is keeping us apart

How to handle family visits when politics and a pandemic intervene?

Our elder believes it begins with honesty and respect.

Dear EWC:

I’m sure I’m not the only parent/grandparent in this boat, but I need some direction from others who’ve navigated this same tricky road. My daughter and family live in another state. She has always been extremely active in her children’s school and athletic activities. With COVID, all of that has stopped. Her daughter graduated from HS and daughter planned a big elaborate party for her. We grandparents were expected to attend (and of course would have were it not for COVID).

She and her husband are trump supporters and believe the Corona virus is “over-hyped” by the media. We can get around our political differences by just choosing not to talk about them. But the virus is a different matter. She believes: 1) Children don’t get the virus, 2) Even if they DO get the virus, it will be not much worse than a bad cold or the flu, 3) She and her husband are healthy and if they get it, it will just make them a bit sick but they’ll recover, 4) It’s actually a GOOD thing to get it because it creates “herd immunity”. She “says” she practices safety through masking in public and social distancing, but she posts pictures on Facebook of her and her friends camping and waterskiing, or out to dinner as a group. The latest was a HUGE family gathering with her in-laws. No masks and no social distancing whatsoever.

So when she pressured us to attend the graduation party I tried to get out of it in a non-offensive way. She wouldn’t accept any of my excuses (we would have to quarantine for 14 days once we got to her state…. she poo-pooed that argument by saying “We’re all family, that’s just silly”. I tried using the excuse that the state I live in had the highest positivity rate in the nation. Again she brushed it off saying it was media hype and the numbers are inaccurate). Finally I had nowhere else to go but the truth and told her that I felt her belief system about COVID was dangerous and incorrect and that I felt her family would put myself and my heart condition spouse in jeopardy.
She declared that I hurt her feelings and has not spoken to us since. How have others dealt with this type of scenario? We miss our children and our grandkids. But we also cannot risk our lives.

Sparks replies:

I am so sorry for what you are going through with your daughter and her family and your grandchildren. As you expected, you are not alone. It seems ironic that at a time when we most need to have close connections to our families, we find ourselves struggling to keep COVID-19 belief differences from tearing us apart. We become fearful of losing what we have along with worrying about our own safety.

So what can you do? I think you have done one of the things that is absolutely essential and that is to be truthful about your feelings. Let a little time pass and then you might try checking back in with your daughter. Let her know that you recognize the two of you are seeing two different sides of an issue. Let her know that you want to respect where she is coming from and would like her to do the same for you. Be compassionate, letting her know how much you miss her and her family. Ask her for some ideas on how you might work together to keep your family connected while at the same time allowing enough space for each of you to hold your own beliefs. She needs to help with the burden of holding your family together during this challenging time.

Let her know that above all else, you want to have her and her family in your life. Whatever you do, do not invest any energy in trying to get her to change her mind. It won’t work and it really causes polarization and a focus on who is right and who is wrong. The truth is you can’t be your best self if you are trying to control someone else’s beliefs, no matter how much you believe them to be wrong! We all want to be accepted just the way we are. So accept her and her beliefs and ask her to do the same for you.

Try to let go of the fear of losing the relationship. You have a right to protect yourself and doing so is setting the best example for your daughter. This is what you would want her to do someday with her own children. So hang in there, be patient. Someday your daughter will recognize that this was the best decision for you. I wish you the best.


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