After months of isolation, you can finally look forward to the end of the pandemic.

A woman wiping away a year from her face, saying,

You're excited to socialize again...but how do you do it right?

You spent months adapting to new rules and safety measures, and suddenly, the rules are changing again. It's both frustrating and confusing!

As your region reopens, your friends and family might have different expectations about getting together in the "new normal".

What are their expectations? And how do you navigate them respectfully?

Comfort Levels

A woman wearing a pink boa saying, Some people are overeager to get back into the world:

  • They feel like they "lost" a year of their lives and want to make up for lost time.

  • They want to catch up as soon as possible with the people they missed.

A woman saying, Others are anxious about being around other people again:

  • They feel like they "forgot" some of their social skills.

  • They got used to being alone and worry about being overwhelmed by company.

Fear And Trauma

Some people might not be ready to socialize just yet because they're still working through their negative experiences of the pandemic.

A meme explaining that not everyong got to

Lingering Fear

People can still be afraid to socialize if they're vulnerable to infection, recovering from the effects of long-term COVID , or even fully vaccinated. When meeting up with others, they might:

  • continue to wear masks or stay physically distant

  • have a low tolerance for physical touch like hugs and handshakes

  • avoid crowds and indoor spaces

Trauma and Inequality

A huge number of people, especially in marginalized communities , experienced:

  • deaths of relatives, friends, and coworkers

  • severe illness and long-term recovery setbacks

  • job loss and economic hardships

  • unsafe work environments

  • depression from the effects of isolation and global political instability

Start Small And Go Slow

Three guys outside of a barn partying quietlyWhile some regions are fully open, not everyone is ready for huge pool parties or full capacity baseball games.

The key is to find a happy medium between the gung-ho and the gun-shy:

Have A Social "Bubble"

  • Get together one-to-one or in groups of two or three.

  • Scale up to five or ten when you all feel comfortable opening up your social bubble to more people.

Keep It Casual

  • Arrange casual hangouts rather than "events", so it feels like less of a big deal.

  • If you do have something to celebrate, like a birthday party, keep it simple and informal so everyone can relax.

Quiz

What's a good way to keep a birthday party casual?

Renting a large banquet hall

A pub crawl

Meeting at the park for a couple hours

A small backyard gathering

Set Ground Rules

The cast of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia huddling to ask,

Everyone will have a different idea of what a reasonable set of rules looks like, so you'll have to discuss the finer points before getting together.

Ask each other:

  • Should we meet outdoors, or are we ok with an indoor gathering?

  • Can we touch each other? Is it ok to hug and shake hands?

  • Should we keep a distance? Wear masks?

  • Is it ok if we share food?

Rebuild Your Social Muscles

A group of women flexing their muscles

Social skills are like muscles: use them or lose them.

It'll take time to build them back up again , so remember to:

  • Recognize that conversations might be awkward or even uncomfortable at first as you relearn how to communicate with each other.

  • Respect people's boundaries and beliefs. They might want to keep a distance or wear masks in public, have different views about vaccines, or be unwilling to discuss their pandemic experiences.

  • Accept that some people will decline invitations or be reluctant to meet up, so give them time and space.

Take Action

A person is having difficulty choosing between You might be "over" the pandemic, but not everyone is. You'll have disagreements with friends and family over how and when to socialize as the world opens back up.

Remember how you treated each other before the pandemic! The world may have changed, but communication and compassion will always keep relationships strong.

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This Byte has been authored by

SB

Steve Birek

Education For All!