Here are tips from a psychologist on how to have tough conversations about vaccines this Thanksgiving

·3 min read
Registered psychologist Dr. Melissa Hoskins has some tips on how to have tough conversations about vaccines with friends and family ahead of Thanksgiving. (Submitted by Melissa Hoskins - image credit)
Registered psychologist Dr. Melissa Hoskins has some tips on how to have tough conversations about vaccines with friends and family ahead of Thanksgiving. (Submitted by Melissa Hoskins - image credit)
Submitted by Melissa Hoskins
Submitted by Melissa Hoskins

Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are pleading with the public to keep contacts low over the Thanksgiving weekend.

According to Dr. Rosann Seviour, the province's acting chief medical officer of health, that number should be 20 close consistent contacts. But what about welcoming those who are unvaccinated?

On Thursday, Newfoundland and Labrador released the details of its vaccine passport, meaning those who don't have their shots will be denied entry into most recreational and non-essential activities. Bars, lounges and indoor entertainment — such as movie theatres and music performances — are on the list.

The situation could also create a rift in some families as they gather for Thanksgiving, registered psychologist Dr. Melissa Hoskins told CBC Radio's CrossTalk.

Hear Dr. Melissa Hoskins speak with Crosstalk host Adam Walsh about how to navigate those tricky holiday conversations:

But, Hoskins has some tips on how to have those tough conversations with family and friends about vaccines.

1. Have a plan

Hoskins said difficult conversations can be made easier by having a plan going in, as the holiday season can set the stage for "charged" discussions.

"As Thanksgiving rolls up, or Christmas, and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa that's just around the corner, it's important to start assessing our own individual risks," she said.

"Most importantly here, on whatever side of the fence you are on for this issue, [is] doing the self-reflection work of 'where do I stand on vaccination and gatherings.'"

Hoskins said being self-aware of your values can help you clarify your stance and formulate a plan to communicate your decision to family members and friends.

2. Determine how to communicate decision

Language is critical, Hoskins said, noting it's OK to be firm and unapologetic when setting boundaries.

Credit: iStock/Getty Images
Credit: iStock/Getty Images

"And it doesn't have to sound cold or condescending," she said.

"It could be something like 'given the current climate I'm feeling uneasy about COVID. We've decided that this is what's best for our family right now' versus something like, and this may be a bit extreme, 'people like you are making things horrible right now and we don't associate with anti-vaxxers.'"

3. Using 'I' statements

Hoskins said using "I" statements is a far more warm and open way to approaching dialogue as opposed to an "us versus them" mentality.

"Using an 'I' statement communicates accountability for your emotions. You're not putting your emotions on someone else and it kind of prevents people from getting defensive," she said.

"It's a lot more open and compassionate as opposed to accusatory and blaming."

4. The DEARMAN acronym

Hoskins said the DEARMAN acronym is a good way of walking through having difficult conversations:

  • D - Describe the situation in a neutral, factual way.

  • E - Express how you feel using an "I" statement.

  • A - Assert yourself, clearly expressing what you want, need or how others can support you.

  • R - Reinforce your request.

  • M - Mindfulness, try to remain grounded, calm and in the present moment.

  • A - Appear confident (it's OK to ask to have your needs met!)

  • N - Negotiate, meaning listening to the other person; interpersonal effectiveness isn't about dictating what other people do, it's about being open and compromising where possible.

As for reconnecting after the holidays, Hoskins said it's all about being kind, respectful and taking ownership if you feel you didn't come across the way you wanted.

"It's OK to acknowledge if things were a bit awkward, or maybe things didn't land the way that we wanted to," she said.

"I think often times, right now in this climate, as trite as this might sound, it's just adopting the idea of being kind. We really don't know what people are going through, we don't have every detail."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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