It goes without saying that the holidays this year are not going to look like any we’ve ever experienced before. Travel plans canceled. Not able to gather with friends and family. The usual ways we fill up our kids’ school vacation days are unavailable, leaving us with a week of unstructured time on our hands.
Before completely freaking out, read on.
First things first… talk to your kids about the holidays. You know. They know. But not talking about it makes it feel SO. MUCH. BIGGER. (This is true of ALL things. Not just holidays!) So, in a calm moment, bring it up. You can let them know how you’re feeling about the holidays (“I’m really disappointed that we won’t be able to see Grammy and Gramps for Christmas. We’ve always gone to their house.”), and ask how they’re feeling about it. This is a great time to discuss what will be the same (“We’ll have a tree/menorah, and there will be gifts.”) and what will be different (“It will just be the 5 of us this year.”). Also important – spend some time remembering what holidays have looked like in the past. Children (and some adults!) are reporting that they’re forgetting what things were like pre-COVID, so taking some time to look at old photos or videos can be really special.
There are many MANY things that you will still be able to do. This is a great time to review your family values (here’s a list to get you started), and reflect on the aspects of the holidays that are most important to you, and most in line with your family values. With those ideals in mind, start to imagine how you might celebrate the rituals that are most important to you. Get your child(ren) involved too! Kids are very creative when it comes to solving problems, and getting their input will ensure that the holidays are celebrated and enjoyed by everyone. If you decide that eating a meal together is an important ritual, set up a Zoom dinner with extended family and cook favorite dishes. If lighting a menorah is important, use FaceTime to light it with friends.
This is also a great time to create new traditions. Have each family member “host” a mini celebration (i.e. sing-a-long, dance party, story-telling, virtual game playing) over Zoom. Send small care packages to each other, and open them together. Create a shared craft project: one family starts a craft (check out these projects for inspiration), then mail the project to another family, they add to the project, then mail it to a third family, etc.). This sort of project makes everyone feel connected, and kids LOVE to get mail! Flex your competitive spirit, and have a bake-off or “best decorations” contest, and have each family member vote for the winner. And document this extraordinary year, as it will (hopefully!) look different next year. Take photos, videos, or journal about the experience.
When you start making your plans, put them on a calendar and make sure it’s placed somewhere that your kids can see. Kids NEED routine, and the surest way to prevent the holiday meltdowns is to stick to some kind of a schedule. Plan each day with help from the kids. How much screen time will they have each day? What solo activities will they do? What family activities are on the schedule? What about outdoor time? Don’t forget to schedule meals and snacks, as well as down-time. When you’re looking at the schedule, focus on where you can bring joy and playfulness into each day. Joy counteracts anxiety, and this is even more important during a pandemic.
And lastly, give yourself permission to scale back. The holidays are often stressful for adults and children alike, and this year is an easy time to reflect on what has worked and not worked about holidays in the past, and let some of those “must-dos” go. This is a year to have simple dinners, curl up with favorite movies, and enjoy each others’ company. Giving yourself permission to focus on the most important parts of the holidays will make the season more meaningful for all of you.
Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season, and good health in 2021!