Dear Dr. Michelle:
I currently live with my parents who haven't been taking the COVID-19 virus too seriously this past year and it has caused me lots of stress and worry. Now that they have been vaccinated, I’m afraid they are going to take it even less seriously. Over the past year, I have talked to them about my concerns and shared pertinent information with them regarding the virus but to no avail. I’m feeling very stressed and anxious for my own safety. Thank you.
PS. I have generalized and social anxiety
I am sorry that you continue to be stressed and worried about the virus; this pandemic has lingered and has continued to disrupt the comfort of so many people for far too long.
I want to commend you for already completing a necessary step in recognizing you and your parents differing level of concern regarding the virus. You have directly communicated your concern as well as provided education; those would be the first steps toward addressing the issue.
You mentioned you have generalized and social anxiety. I might assume that by you sharing this information you may realize your anxiety could be heightening your own discomfort. More importantly, it could be influencing your perception of what it means to take the virus seriously. It is possible that both you and your parents are taking it seriously, but because you have different perceptions and experiences, each of your expectations of what actions to take are just different.
At this point, if your parents are still not taking it as seriously as you wish, switch your focus. Concentrate on your needs rather than on your parents and the need for them to think about the virus differently.
Focus on Behaviors and Actions
A good place to start is to recognize and acknowledge all the ways they are taking it seriously, and how you appreciate what they are doing to be safe; try to avoid judgement and criticism. Further, recognize the fact that your comfort level is different from theirs and that neither approach is right or wrong. Focus on specific behaviors that would make you feel more comfortable. Create a list of additional actions that you wish you and your parents were doing. Review the list with your parents and ask them if they are willing to consider adopting any of those behaviors for the sake of your comfort and concern. Just remember to keep your expectations in check, they may not be able or willing to change any of their behaviors.
If this exercise does not help the situation, it is time to focus on what you do and don’t have control over. You only have control over yourself; you have no control over what your parent’s ultimately do or do not do to maintain safety. If moving out and living in your own environment is not a viable option, identify actions you can take independently while living with your parents that will meet your standards for safety. These are a few actions to consider:
- Wear a mask, or double up on your mask even when you are around your parents or in the house.
- Quarantine yourself to a particular part of the house for the majority of time you are in the house.
- Socially distance when you are in the same room with your parents, like at the dinner table or in the TV room.
- Drive separately in different cars if you are going out somewhere together.
- If people come over to the house, excuse yourself to a different part of the house during and following any visits if you want to avoid interaction.
- Separate spaces in the house for independent use, like bathrooms.
- Get yourself routinely tested to reassure yourself that you are COVID free.
If these behaviors seem off-putting to your parents, explain to them that you need to take these actions to manage your own concern for safety. Reassure them that you are taking these steps for your own anxiety management and not because you are expecting them to change their behavior. The key is to focus on what you have control over and where you can take action to help yourself without negatively impacting your parents.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.
Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.