How To Convince Your Family To Take Coronavirus Seriously

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Along with the obsessive hand-washing, cabin fever and existential dread, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a whole new whack of awkward interpersonal scenarios that we’re doing our best to navigate — not always successfully. Are your friends treating work from home like a license to party? Have your Boomer parents been breaking the rules of self-isolation? Do the people posting vacation snaps on Insta not understand the meaning of global health crisis??? 
No doubt, the time for tough talk is upon us. But how do you have those hard conversations? Here, a handy dandy cheat sheet. We’re already fighting a virus here, people. Let’s try to keep the interpersonal conflict to a minimum. 

How to talk to… 

Your friends who are still going out to celebrate (because they’re not going to let a virus win!)

This attitude about not letting the bad guy triumph is one we’re seeing a lot of, both IRL and on social media — a popular hold over from 9/11 and other times of war and crisis. In the case of COVID-19, it doesn’t make sense. “This isn’t a terrorist attack where we want to show the virus we’re not afraid,” says Michelle Cohen, a family doctor in Toronto who wrote on staying healthy during the outbreak. Carrying on with normal habits and social interactions is exactly what the coronavirus does want, says Cohen, noting that the best way to stick it to COVID-19 is by limiting in-person social interactions wherever possible. For many of us, that means staying home.

There is no way to ensure COVID-free festivities.

As for going out and making merry — depending on what part of the country they live in, your pals may have a hard time finding a place to get their drink on: the U.K have issued orders to shut down bars and dine-in restaurants. It’s possible your friends may be planning an at-home bash but is it really worth assuming unnecessary risk for a party? Even if the hosts takes temperatures and travel histories at the door, the latest intel (basically that people without symptoms may be spreading the disease more than previously realised) means there is no way to ensure COVID-free festivities. Note: Even former COVID-denier Donald Trump now says to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. So maybe tell your friends to take inspiration from these extreme times. Some people are hosting parties over FaceTime. If nothing else, that’s a bender you’ll remember.

Your parents who just got back from a trip and say nobody told them they had to stay home at the airport. Besides, they feel “just fine!”

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First off, you are not the only person wondering when your mom and/or dad became the reckless ones in the family. All over the Internet there are examples of millennials struggling to convince their Boomer parents to start acting like adults when it comes to assuming risk. The author Robin Wasserman recently tweeted her theory that “coming of age at the height of the Cold War/nuclear panic inculcated a faith that no matter how scary things look, the Bad Thing never actually happens.” (See above on why the coronavirus is different from “the bad guys.”) 
So sure, some members of the older gen aren’t setting the best example. (International treasures Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson notwithstanding.) But before you go judging too harshly, remember that your parents may not be spending hours a day on Twitter following the new influencers like the CDC, Theresa Tam, and Eileen de Villa, and maybe their ignorance isn’t entirely their fault. “The messaging on this has been extremely inconsistent up until recently,” says Cohen, noting different policies coming from different provinces and the way that a lot of political figures (particularly in the States) downplayed the crisis for way too long. That’s no longer the case, though, and regardless of how your parents are feeling they are under instructions from our federal government to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning from anywhere. “But that’s not what we heard at the airport,” says Mom, who presumably came home as recently as a few days ago when custom agents at Pearson airport in Toronto, for example, weren’t taking temperatures or issuing self-quarantine instructions.
But that was then and this is — well — just a few days later, which may as well be a whole different universe. One in which “feeling okay” is irrelevant since the virus may take days or even weeks to cause symptoms (and can spread before that happens). And yet, there are people who are resisting reality. So how do you keep them safe in the midst of a generational power struggle? 
“Try making an emotional appeal rather than trying to ‘win’,” says Dr. Rukhsana Ahmed, a Canadian health communication specialist at the University at Albany in New York: Tell your dad that you are worried and you just can’t imagine your graduation/wedding/the birth of his first grandchild without him, or tell your mom that you are struggling with a lot of anxiety and her behaviour is keeping your from much-needed sleep. In other words, make your parents think they’re doing you a favour. Maybe not the most honest route, but desperate times and all that. “For a lot of parents, taking instructions from their kids is a big adjustment,” says Ahmed. And aren’t well all adjusting to enough?

Your 85-year-old grandma still wants to visit the grocery store

At this point there are technically no rules against food shopping, and some stores (including many supermarkets) are even providing special hours for seniors to shop. But if there is a way to get your granny to stay home, that’s definitely the safer option. Seniors (particularly those ages 75+) are in a much higher-risk bracket, both because our immune systems become less proficient as we age and because if an older person does contract COVID-19, it’s more likely to be a serious case. A lot of elderly people are playing the “if it’s my time, it’s my time” card. Rather than argue, why not do what you can to diminish risk? Drop off groceries without asking or organise a delivery online. Just a guess here, but maybe your granny would rather expose herself to a deadly virus than admit to her Internet illiteracy.
She did live through war, after all, or at the very least, she’s endured a lot more history than you have. For a lot of seniors, pride and independence are inextricable, so be sensitive to this as you do your best to convince her to stay put. If it's scare tactics you're after, you can tell her that if (and really when) our health-care system becomes overburdened, the very elderly may not qualify for beds and respirators, which will go to people who are most likely to benefit from medical care. Better yet, appeal to her sense of duty: If she requires medical attention, that could mean that someone else won’t get it; we’re all doing our part to protect the people who need it. And yes, she is one of those people, but she doesn’t have to know that. Now stop being such an ungrateful whippersnapper, and call your grandma.

Your friend who is still posting photos from her March Break holiday. Doesn't she know we're in the midst of a global health emergency?

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Hello… did they not hear the prime minister tell Canadians that it’s time to come home?! Arguably it’s fair to associate a certain amount of obnoxiousness with posting fun-in-the-sun snaps while others are cooped up in quarantine or even working the front lines. But now we’re just talking about people being tone deaf on social media and which is (sigh) hardly a COVID-19-related phenomenon. Same goes with the inclination to make assumptions about people based on their Insta posts. So maybe, just for a second, consider that your friends aren’t selfish jerks who should be turned away at the border. “A lot of people went on vacation for March Break just a few days ago when the travel advisories were totally different,” says Michelle Cohen.

Resist the temptation to post a mean or judgy comment. (That includes passive aggressive comments that are about as subtle as a sneeze on a subway train.)

Still unimpressed? Resist the temptation to post a mean or judgy comment. (That includes passive aggressive comments that are about as subtle as a sneeze on a subway train.) And instead enjoy the mental health benefits (read: satisfying smugness) that come with taking the high road. Send them a message that suggests downloading some good podcasts for the airport line (it’s sure to be a long one), or offer to pick up groceries to prep them for their self-quarantine. These people are your friends after all, and presumably you want them to remain your friends once we’re past this mess.

Your sister who pops by with a bottle of wine even though you’re in self-isolation

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Can’t understand why a loved one would put you in such an awkward position? Consider that a lot of people are confused about the difference between “social distancing” and “self- isolation,” two terms that we had never heard of a week ago and are now as unavoidable as toilet paper is scarce. To clarify: Social distancing means limiting social interactions (especially indoors) and is recommended for everyone who is able to do it. (Certain jobs and essential services make social distancing more difficult.) Self-isolation, means you are staying in your home quarantined and having zero contact with the outside world: No trips to the grocery store, no meeting your friend for a run, even no going for a run on your own if you’re going by the book — and you really should be. If you're in it, you have probably returned from a trip, have symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone with symptoms, are in a higher medical risk bracket, or just want to stay as safe as fricking possible (totally your prerogative).
So go ahead and tell your sister she can't stay, just remember there is a way to do that that isn't going to make her feel stupid. “There is so much relating to communication that is not about the information, but about how we are relaying it,” says Ahmed. “People can express judgment with their tone, with body language.” So maybe you want to play a little dumb: “I know — this is all so confusing. I had no idea myself until I did some reading just now.” Just don’t miss the opportunity to educate, since providing people with clear and accurate information is literally saving lives. 

People who don't live with a partner/family/roommate deserve a little extra compassion.

Does your sister happen to live by herself? Another thing to keep in mind is that it's perfectly normal to crave social contact during a crisis, and people who don't live with a partner/family/roommate deserve a little extra compassion. During the 2003 blackouts that affected most of northeastern North America, for example, it was such a tonic to be able to gather in each others' homes (and share the contents of each others' freezers). Now we have to keep our distance — at least physically. So why not suggest a way to bond that doesn’t involve being in the same space? Text back and forth during your favourite reality show (Love Is Blind is basically dating in social isolation, so that could be a fun one). Check in with frequent phone calls and by all means, have that glass of wine on FaceTime.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the NHS website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.

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