Navigating Thanksgiving when vaccine status is an issue

Thanksgiving is coming up on Monday, and this year Manitobans will be dealing with an issue they never have before – vaccine status.

Earlier in the week, the Manitoba government implemented a new set of public health orders, largely aimed at restricting private gatherings with unvaccinated people who are eligible to be vaccinated.

These new rules may lead to some uncomfortable conversations with family and friends surrounding their COVID-19 vaccination status.

To deal with these awkward situations, therapist Carolyn Klassen said people need to be aware of they enter these conversations and lead with kindness.

“When I got vaccinated, it was because of how I wanted to be taking care of others, those that had underlying health conditions, and the young, and so forth. I did it out of kindness and caring,” she said.

“So if kindness is a high value for me, then I have to figure out how to be consistent and live out that very same value in those discussions with those who might be unvaccinated.

NAVIGATING THE GUEST LIST

Under Manitoba’s new restrictions, the province is limiting households to guests from one other household for private indoor gatherings when an unvaccinated person, who is eligible to be vaccinated, is on the property. It is also limiting households to 10 outdoor guests when an unvaccinated person, who is eligible to be vaccinated, is on the property.

These rules apply even if the unvaccinated person lives at the location of the gathering, and could lead to some tough decisions when it comes to who will make the guest list.

Klassen said in this situation, people need to decipher what works for them and their family.

“Once you have clarity on that, you have conversations that are both brave and kind, so that you’re really clear and you let people know really calmly what’s going to work for you and your family,” she said.

Klassen noted that during these conversations, it’s best not to blame or criticize, as this will like have an adverse effect on what you want.

UNDERSTANDING OTHER PEOPLE’S DECISIONS

For those that feel strongly about the importance of being vaccinated, Klassen said it’s important to recognize that a person’s decision to not get vaccinated is not connected to their love for their friends and family, but rather it has to do with what they think is right for them.

“So often when we find somebody that is making a decision that is different than what we would want, we can feel like they must not love or care for me,” she said.

“That’s when I think we get really angry and upset, because we assign a meaning to their decision that isn’t actually there.”

To avoid any tense conversations at the dinner table, Klassen recommends listening to what people are saying and try to understand their perspective.

“I think if we can bring authentic empathy to a situation, where we can hear the situation from the other person’s perspective, and then communicate that understanding, I think that’s really powerful,” she said.

“Empathy is not endorsement, it’s just understanding.”

- With files from CTV’s Nicole Dube.