How to tell your family you won't be with them for Christmas

How to tell your family you won’t be with them for Christmas? If you’ve already tried to have the conversation and it didn’t go well, or you’ve been avoiding your family like the coronavirus just so you don’t have to break the bad news, then you’re in the right place – AND – you’re not alone.

A virtual Christmas meeting on a laptop
Virtual Christmas on a laptop

Most of us are having this very dilemma. Do we see family? Put them at risk? Put ourselves at risk? Or do we just stay put and not have the family over this year?

Christmas, as any festive film or song will hammer home, is a time to gather around the ones we love, but since we’ve not been able to do that for the majority of this year already, it was always going to make this Christmas in particular that much more meaningful for many. Making it even harder to justify keeping a safe distance.

The fact is, sharing dishes and drinks, being squashed in together, talking, shouting and singing, are all inevitable when it comes to Christmas gatherings, and it all makes the perfect environment for spreading coronavirus – or any virus for that matter.

But this year has been all about getting inventive and creative and finding new ways to celebrate in a distanced way – it’s obvious now that it was ideas for a socially-distanced Christmas we’ve been building up to the whole time!

So if you are not comfortable with meeting up with the folks, the kids, the friends, or other loved ones this year, but aren’t sure how to express your Christmas wishes, then hopefully some of these tips will help:

Give yourself permission

Firstly, know that your thoughts and opinions are valid. You are allowed to make plans for yourself, however you see fit, and you don’t have to feel guilty for them. Guilt is a tough feeling to contend with, but it’s one that we must say goodbye to this year – we don’t need to feel guilty for skipping a traditional Christmas. We’re doing it for each other.

Tell them now

The earlier you make your plans known, the more time others have to come to terms with them and adjust to them. The later you leave it, the more hurt and confusion will be piled on to the festivities.

Be honest

You absolutely have to be 100% honest in the reason for why you won’t be seeing them. Lies will only land you in hot water later on when you get caught out. Phoning on Christmas day to say you won’t be coming because you’re ill, won’t work. You’ll spend the day feeling guilty instead of enjoying your nice quiet Christmas, guilt-free, at home.

Be firm but kind

Tell them what you have decided to do, “I know we usually do x, but this year I/we have decided to do x.” Reassure them that next year you’ll be able to have a normal Christmas but this year you want to keep them and you safe when we’re so close to the end of this pandemic. To fall at the last hurdle is just not a risk worth taking.

Understand they’ll be disappointed

Of course they will be upset. Tell them you’re upset too, but it’s for the best and it’s only for this year. Don’t get defensive when they question you about it, answer their concerns with love and compassion (remember, they’ll likely be feeling rejected by your news) and know that their frustrations come from a place of love too. They want to be with you at Christmas, that’s all. Listen to them and let them get their feelings out.

End on a happy note

Tell them your alternative Christmas ideas and see if you can come up with a new Christmas Day plan together. Just because you can’t be together at Christmas, doesn’t mean you can’t see each other at Christmas.

Hopefully, by this time next year, the coronavirus pandemic will all seem like a distant memory with families and friends enjoying Christmas the way they have for years. Until then, we all need to continue to do our bit to stop the spread and stay safe, and if that means sacrificing Christmas just this once, then isn’t it a sacrifice worth making?