It kind of felt like it would never happen, but it is. Everything is slowly but surely opening back up now that the worst of the pandemic appears to be behind us. It’s amazing and wonderful that we can start to hang with other humans once again. However, hanging with other humans now brings with it some complicated questions. Mainly, how do you talk to mom friends — and potential playdate buddies — about vaccinations?
I reached out to Evie Granville and Sarah Davis, etiquette experts and the authors of Modern Manners For Moms & Dads: Practical Parenting Solutions for Stick Social Situations (For Kids 0-5). I asked for their best advice on how to handle questions regarding vax status, and how to politely set your own boundaries with playdates.
Asking The Big Vax Question
The first (and perhaps most awkward) conversation many parents are facing: what is the right way to inquire about someone’s vaccination status? I mean, it just feels very weird to straight up shout, “Hey, you get your shots?!?” But Granville and Davis point out that the parameters of what is considered “too personal” have shifted a lot since the pandemic. “COVID has created a world where questions that were once considered rude are now part of normal conversation,” they said. “Two years ago, we wouldn't normally ask if anyone in a family had been sick or shown certain symptoms prior to a playdate, unless we had an immunocompromised family member. But now, it's part of regular conversation.”
But the vaccine question — they admit this is a bit thornier. “Talking about vaccines can be quite personal, since some people prefer not to share or feel very strongly about their decision,” they said. “One way to approach this is to offer your vaccination status. ‘We're vaccinated, so your child will be around safe adults.’ Then, see if the other adult offers their status. If they don't, you can try another approach: ‘The adults in our family are vaccinated and we've decided to socialize only with other vaccinated families. I completely understand if you don't want to share this with us or chose not to get the shot, but I wanted to ask if you're comfortable sharing it with us.’”
Politely (But Firmly) Setting Your Boundaries
If a parent then shares that no, they are not vaccinated, it is perfectly acceptable to decline an indoor playdate. Same goes if a parent simply refuses to share their vax status. Should a parent still push, and insist that their family is being “very safe” etc., you definitely don’t need to feel bad about standing your ground. Remember, this is about keeping you and your family healthy, and no one should feel bullied into a social interaction they aren’t comfortable with. For the pushy parent, Granville and Davis suggest this type of language: "I appreciate your being upfront with us about how safe your family is being right now, but we're only comfortable sticking with outdoor visits."
Granville and Davis say a good way to avoid any potential weirdness is to have your boundaries well established before attempting to meet up. “The best way to avoid offending others when planning get-togethers is to be really upfront about what you're comfortable with before you're face-to-face. It's so much easier to set boundaries before the visit than to try to adjust them during! For instance, when setting up a playdate, say, ‘We're still keeping our visits outdoors and masked. We'd love to see you if that works for you!’”
How To Handle The Vaccine Debate
But what do you do if an unvaccinated parent gets all up in your grill (and if they do they better be masked!) with vaccine conspiracy theories, and wants to discuss how they read on Facebook that the vaccine will make you grow a Bill Gates-shaped third arm out of your back? What to do then? Well, Granville and Davis urge caution in this area. “If they present you with misinformation, you can respond with, ‘I haven't read or seen that,’ and avoid a debate. You may not want to engage in a passionate conversation since you probably won't change their opinion, and this conversation could potentially end a friendship.”
But if you really feel compelled to respond, they suggest you just politely provide your reasons for choosing to be vaccinated yourself. But be prepared for pushback, and certainly don’t expect to sway the person’s beliefs. “Sadly, there isn't much you can do to change a person's mind if they feel strongly about not getting vaccinated, even due to misinformation.”