Your mum hasn’t felt this invincible since she won 100 quid on the National Lottery, ordered a spontaneous Wednesday night takeaway, and allowed everyone two poppadoms each.
She’s been vaccinated. And so has your dad/her boyfriend/her girlfriend/your auntie/her best mate.
The exact family makeup in this scenario doesn’t really matter. The point is, the pair of them are carrying on with reckless abandon, booking holidays, arranging family gatherings, meeting up with mates and overdosing on hugs like nobody’s business. They do so, repeating the mantra: “It’s fine, we’ve been vaccinated!”
The thing is, you haven’t been vaccinated. And you’re not entirely convinced it’s fine, either.
Sure, if you’re back of the vaccine queue it probably means you’ve got a lower risk of being hospitalised with Covid. But you’d rather not get ill all the same – or be affected by long Covid – and you’re aware your parents’ shenanigans could prolong this lockdown misery.
We still don’t know if people who’ve been vaccinated can spread the virus. Initial studies suggest the vaccines do have some effect on the virus’ transmission. But it’s early days and experts say the vaccine doesn’t necessarily stop you transmitting it . On top of that, there are concern the vaccines may be less effective against some variants.
While your vaccinated parents may avoid serious illness, they could still get sick and, crucially, they could put other non-vaccinated people at risk.
Vaccine envy is brewing, and if the over 50s don’t simmer down soon, annoyance risks spilling over into full-blown intergenerational divides. So, how can you have a word with your folks, if they’ve gotten a bit vaccine giddy?
“Approach the discussion from a point of care – that you love them dearly and are concerned for their health and wellbeing,” says Dr Sheri Jacobson, a retired psychotherapist and founder of Harley Therapy.
“Express your view as calmly and kindly as possible, including your worries about the consequences. They might be swayed if the issue is important enough to you and framed as a form of care for them.”
The tricky thing about trying to parent a parent, though, is that your advice may not be welcomed. “How parents will react to their children giving advice to them will depend on the dynamic of the relationship over time,” says Dr Jacobson.
“Many parents have taken a dominant role, in which case they would generally not welcome steering from their adult children. Others have a more submissive stance – their child from a very young age has often dolled out advice, which the parent historically would heed.”
Patterns of debate are also set early and are difficult to shake, she adds. For example, if you were a bossy child and your parent tended to concede, this is likely to continue into your adult-parent dynamic. On the other hand, if your parent is used to ruling the roost, you’ll have a tricker time getting them to concede now.
If friction is mounting, the best approach is to try to listen to your parents’ feedback and work to understand their contrarian viewpoint. Also, prepare for disappointment and pick your battles to protect your own wellbeing – this may be a fruitless endeavour.
“Ultimately, they are cognisant adults,” says Dr Jacobson, “and will have to decide for themselves.”