Broadview Magazine: How to settle family disputes about covid-19 at a distance

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America last year, David Walters was quick to adapt public health recommendations and hoped that his family would do the same. “My mother has cardiac issues and my father has severe diabetes,” he says, adding that his father has since been diagnosed with cancer. Both of his parents are in their 70s, and Walters knew that the virus could be devastating to either of them. And, as the partner of a frontline worker in a hospital, Walters was acutely aware of the dangers of COVID-19.

While Walters made a point to practice social distancing and avoid non-essential activities outside of the home, his sister was living a very different life. “Last summer, she took four road trips with her kids during which she visited numerous elderly relatives and stayed inside other people’s homes,” he details, noting that COVID numbers are high in her region. She often shares photos on social media that show her having close, unmasked contact with friends and co-workers, or attending birthday parties and other gatherings. She also continued to visit with their parents — a cause of stress for Walters, who agonizes over whether he goes to the grocery store too often.

He has addressed his concerns with his sister in a roundabout way but avoided tackling the subject head-on. Emotions are higher than ever, and Walters isn’t convinced they can have a productive conversation about their differences.

Sarah Patterson, a psychotherapist based in Burlington, Ont., is hearing a lot of these stories in her practice. “Family relationships are where I’m seeing the most conflict but also hurt feelings,” she says.

Read more on Broadview Magazine.

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