Families still planning to gather for Thanksgiving


Despite public health agencies warning against gathering for Thanksgiving, many families are still planning to do so. A new poll offers some insight on why parents still plan to gather and what they are doing to try to keep everyone safe.

As the United States prepares for a much different Thanksgiving holiday than usual, the question of what families are planning to do remains up in the air for many. The University of Michigan’s latest C.S. Mott National Poll on Children’s Health tackles this topic.1

The researchers used a nationally representative sample of 1443 parents of children aged 0 to 12 years and asked them what their plans were for holiday gatherings with their extended family. Nearly every parent, 94%, said that their child gets together with extended family on a number of different occasions under normal circumstances. However, 51% of the parents said that the pandemic had led to a significant reduction in time spent with extended family and 23% said that it had led to only a slight reduction.

When asked about usual Thanksgiving plans, 76% of the parents said that their child usually sees extended family. Most of these Thanksgiving dinners are attended by grandparents or other older extended family members and 40% of the gatherings involve family members traveling from other states. Among families who usually have extended family for Thanksgiving, 61% plan to have extended family over for Thanksgiving later this week and 18% said that some of that family will be coming from out of state.

Many of the parents said that they had different priorities for Thanksgiving 2020. Many of the parents (78%), said that it was important to not spread COVID-19 at family gatherings. A little over half of the parents also said that it was imperative that children spend time with extended family, 53%, as well as sharing family traditions, 58%. When asked if the benefits of connecting with family for Thanksgiving outweighed the potential risk of spreading COVID-19, only 35% said that it did.

When asked how they were planning on preventing the spread of COVID-19 at their Thanksgiving celebration, they said they’d take the following precautions:

  • 88% of parents will ask people to not come to Thanksgiving if they have COVID-19 symptoms or exposure;
  • 76% of parents will limit the contact between their child and those who are high-risk, such as seniors and certain medical conditions;
  • 68% of parents will make sure guests social distance during the celebration; and
  • 64% of parents won’t invite people who haven’t been following precautions such as masking and handwashing.


  1. C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. National Poll on Children's Health: Considering Children in COVID-19 Thanksgiving Plans. 2020;37(3). Published November 23, 2020. Accessed November 23, 2020. Available at: Available at: https://mottpoll.org/reports/considering-children-covid-19-thanksgiving-plans.
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Tina Tan, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, FPIDS, editor in chief, Contemporary Pediatrics, professor of pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, pediatric infectious diseases attending, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
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