Coping Tips for Parents and Kids During the Holiday Season

A family roasting marshmallows outside.
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So far this year, coronavirus has altered almost every aspect of our lives — from work, to school and socializing. And that will likely include the holiday season as well, as we continue to follow social distancing guidelines recommended by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to curb the spread of the virus. This is especially important if you or your loved ones are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19.

While we continue to learn to adapt to life with coronavirus, the holidays are a special time for many families, and it can be hard when long-held traditions must change. As you begin making your holiday plans, here are some ways to help yourself and your kids cope with whatever the season brings.

Talk With Your Kids

You’ve probably already had many conversations with your children about coronavirus — whether about the illness it causes, school or dorm closings, missed birthday parties or canceled summer plans. But even if you’ve had these types of conversations before, try to remember that many kids look forward to the holidays all year. Although your children may have adapted to other changes, it could take them some time to accept that coronavirus will affect yet another tradition.

Be Honest

It can be hard to break the news that you won’t be traveling to Grandma’s house this year, spending time with favorite cousins or visiting Santa at the mall. But in these times of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever for your children to know that they can trust you to tell the truth. It’s OK to not have all the answers, but share what you do know openly and honestly, in a way they can understand.

Focus on the Positive

Talk about the things you’ll do as a family for the holidays — and how you can feel gratitude for what you do have — even if you can’t celebrate in the usual way. Let your children come up with some new ideas for holiday fun. And make a list of the family traditions you can hold on to, such as cooking favorite meals, singing holiday songs, watching holiday movies or putting up decorations.

Give Them Space for Their Feelings

No matter their age, your children may feel disappointed or angry when holiday plans change. Be empathetic — let them know that these feelings are normal, and that you feel disappointed, too. It’s OK if they want to sulk for a day or two as they process their feelings.

Be Prepared to Repeat Yourself

Some children, especially young ones, may ask you the same question over and over. This may be a way for them to understand what’s happening and process things that are difficult.

Be Available

Let your kids know that you’re always there to answer any questions or concerns they might have about coronavirus or how to keep it from spreading.

Go Virtual

For many of us, the holidays are the one time a year when we can count on seeing family and close friends, often over a shared meal. If travel restrictions or social distancing make it impossible to be with your loved ones this year, move the celebration to the virtual world. With a little help from technology, you can spend time and have a meal with your family, even if you’re not all in the same room.

To plan a virtual family dinner, find a time that works for everyone and set a menu. While you don’t all have to eat the exact same meal, it can help you feel connected — and it can be a fun way to share recipes.

Involve your children in finding recipes and planning the menu. Older kids can help cook, too. At the allotted dinner time, fire up your devices and sit down “together” to enjoy your creations.

Of course, a virtual celebration isn’t limited to dinner. You can also connect with family or friends virtually to play games, watch movies, or share other holiday traditions and celebrations.

Find New Ways to Celebrate

Family traditions can be hard to let go. But discovering new ways to celebrate may make this year’s holidays more meaningful than ever. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Give to Others

The holidays are traditionally a time for giving, and helping others is a good way for your kids to concentrate on something besides what they can’t do. Ask them for their ideas about how to help others during the pandemic and find ways to give back to the community. No matter the age of your children, there’s a way to get involved.

You might check in on an elderly neighbor or relative, make cards for frontline workers, choose presents for needy families, or donate time or items to charity. If you’d like to say thank you to the staff of AdventHealth, visit our page to find ways to make a difference.

Find a New Holiday Activity

If you usually spend time traveling or with relatives during the holidays, use that extra time to try a new activity together — and make that a holiday tradition. Play board games or do puzzles, take a family hike, cook holiday foods from another culture, have a scavenger hunt, or make your own holiday decorations. Get creative and let your kids come up with ideas, too.

Send a Handmade Greeting

Use this time to encourage your kids to pen cards and letters to family and friends. For those who are alone during the holidays, finding a handmade card or letter in their mailbox could really brighten their day.

Stay Safe If You Do Travel

The CDC encourages those at increased risk, including older adults and people with medical conditions, as well as others in their households, to consider their risk level before traveling. Remember, even if you follow all precautions and guidelines, travel may increase your chances of contracting coronavirus and spreading it to others.

If you do decide to visit with family this holiday season, it’s important to do some research and take precautions before you travel. The CDC recommends checking the number of COVID-19 cases in the last seven days in any state you’ll be traveling to. If cases are on the rise in that area, it could mean that coronavirus is spreading in your destination.

We’re Here to Keep You Informed

AdventHealth offers a wide range of information about coronavirus on our Coronavirus Resource Hub, including other ways for you and your family to cope during this difficult time. Visit often to get the latest updates.

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