When Family Members Won’t Get Vaccinated

During the last two years, we have seen many Bucks County families divided over Covid vaccination status. Suppose you’re immuno-compromised and you feel unsafe around people who have not received a vaccination or who may have any kind of cold or illness. You have the right to advocate for yourself within your family, and you may decide not to see certain family members for the time being. 

Short of serious health concerns, however, try to handle this difference of opinion as you would handle most other strongly-held differences, such as religion or politics: with respect and patience. 

One-on-one conversations are preferable, so the other person does not feel ambushed. You will also have more control over the situation because if you want to be calm and patient but someone else who holds your opinion is more hot-headed, the conversation can actually be counter-productive.

That said, if you know the conversation is likely to get heated or emotional, ask a level-headed person whom you both respect to moderate. If it begins to get intense, take a break. 

Try to maintain neutral, non-aggressive, and non-accusative body language, tone of voice, and word choice. Don’t say things like “You obviously don’t care about others.” Ask, rather, “What thoughts do you have about how your decision impacts others?” That may still be a difficult question to hear, but it assumes the other person has thought about it, which is a respectful assumption, and it opens up the opportunity for the other person to explain his thoughts on the matter. 

Try to explain your position without being preachy. Stick to what you see as the facts and ask your family member to do the same. Facts should be supported by reliable sources. Try not to dominate the conversation. If necessary, set a timer to give each person five minutes of uninterrupted talking, and take turns. 

Go into your conversation with the mindset of creating peace and making progress in your understanding of each other’s position. You may both find common ground and even come closer together in your views.

In the end, family is family. Do whatever you can to maintain that mutual love and respect that all family members deserve. You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can control your own. For your part, try to maintain that sense of family bond. Even if there is tension for a time, try to keep lines of communication open so your relationship can continue moving forward and eventually move past this difference.


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