With the beginning of Hanukkah on Thursday and Christmas just two weeks away, for families across the nation the holiday season is nearly unrecognizable as many wrestle with the difficult decision of whether to return home or stay put.
For most, the choice is an emotional one, and experts said it's important to recognize both fact and feelings when discussing the decision to not travel with loved ones.
"I think when you're starting that conversation, remembering that you likely have a common goal, which is to continue your relationship into the new year and hopefully well beyond that," said Dr. Michelle Maegly, a clinical psychologist.
Maegly has helped multiple clients navigate the difficult conversations with family the pandemic has demanded.
"I think validating their feelings and not minimizing what they're experiencing is a huge component to helping others feel heard," she said.
In the end, she said, the best approach is to recognize both facts and the emotions tied to the decision, and ultimately respecting whatever choice is made.
"We've been going back and forth," said Richard Larsen, whose family has been trying to determine whether they should travel to see family for Christmas. "We'd obviously love to go out there to see family."
Larsen, his wife and three kids have family in Salt Lake City. They've lived in Cincinnati for a little over a year and were initially looking forward to an annual trip they're now not certain if they'll make.
"It's just hard to plan for," said Larsen. "Looking three weeks down the road feels like it's looking six months down the road."
Another factor he said his family is considering is the state's travel advisory list, which currently includes Ohio itself as a state with a high positivity rate. Utah is also included on the advisory list.
"We found it to be okay to say we don't know if we're coming," said Larsen. "And that's kind of where we sit right now. We really don't know if we're coming home for the holidays."