One in three parents believes the benefits of gathering the family together for Thanksgiving are worth the risk of contracting or spreading the novel coronavirus, according to a new survey commissioned by Mott Children’s Hospital of the University of Michigan.
The national survey, which polled nearly fifteen hundred families with children between the ages of zero and twelve, also found that half of the respondents indicate that it’s very important that their child sees extended family and shares in family holiday traditions, while three-quarters feel it’s important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at family gatherings.
“As COVID-19 cases spike, many families are struggling with whether and how to continue their holiday traditions while balancing risks and benefits,” Sarah Clark, co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine, said in a statement.
Two-thirds of parents plan to ask guests to maintain social distancing as much as possible—although enforcing these rules may be a challenge.
“It may be difficult to maintain distance between children and high-risk adults throughout a multi-day visit or even during a lengthy dinner,” Clark said. “Parents should be realistic about how feasible it will be to limit contact and think carefully about whether to gather in person with high-risk family members.”
She added that about half of parents say the ongoing pandemic has substantially decreased the amount of time their children spend with extended family members, and that some are exhibiting signs that they may be growing weary of these months-long separations.
“For many parents, holidays mean sharing special rituals across different generations and opportunities for children to connect with grandparents, cousins, and other relatives,” Clark said.
“Our report suggests that while many children have spent less time with relatives during the pandemic, some parents may have a hard time foregoing holiday gatherings in order to reduce COVID-19 risks.”
However, it may be especially risky for children to reunite with older adults and seniors for Thanksgiving who are at the highest risk of getting seriously sick if they contract the virus.
“Families may need to consider alternative, safer ways to celebrate and preserve traditions in order to keep loved ones safe,” Clark noted.
The survey’s findings seem to be consistent with another recent poll conducted by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, which revealed that nearly 40 percent of Americans are planning to have Thanksgiving dinner with ten or more people.
One-third noted that they won’t ask guests to wear face masks or coverings at the holiday gathering, and 27 percent of respondents indicated that they won’t practice any form of social distancing. Moreover, 20 percent added that they won’t turn away guests even if they exhibit coronavirus-related symptoms.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.