Before the 2020 pandemic, holidays were often stressful as many families made great efforts to keep up traditions. Feelings of guilt arose if stress, sickness, or lack of time prevented “normal” traditions from happening. This year, we may be struggling more than ever to find some sense of normalcy and maintain holiday traditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Making positive holiday memories this year is possible—find something out of the ordinary to do, something different and fun you and your family can be excited about. Try to let go of expectations this year and know things won’t be perfect, and that’s ok. Read on for ideas on keeping up with old traditions, as well as establishing new and meaningful traditions with your family.
Being together is often an essential component of holidays for many. Gift-giving can be a part of being together, so if your budget allows, give gifts to friends and family this year too. Even if you will not see them in person, you can mail gifts–either send directly from an online shop or wrap the presents yourself and send them by mail.
Connect virtually with family and friends, even just for a few minutes. For families with children, try opening presents with grandparents on Zoom or FaceTime. You can also bake, decorate, and celebrate religious customs virtually.
Even if it’s difficult to connect for kids, it’s important to try to connect, as many children are experiencing loneliness during the pandemic. Try social distancing with nearby friends, family, or neighbors in a park or on your lawn over the holidays. Even a few minutes of face-to-face connection can be nourishing and memorable.
To connect with others, try hosting a virtual watch party with friends or family. Watch a holiday movie (or a marathon of holiday movies!) together with loved ones. There are a variety of ways to do this. Check out this article for starters.
Kids and Adolescents
If you have kids or teens in your household, spend time this holiday season reviewing what makes holidays special for your family. This could include being together, celebrating religious beliefs, and slowing down. Kids are resilient but are still feeling the stress of the pandemic, so establish an open line of communication for kids to talk about their thoughts and feelings as holidays look different this year. You should be honest about COVID-19, but you don’t have to be negative or grim. Focus on hope and acknowledge your kids’ efforts to stay safe (mask-wearing, washing hands, staying home, and social distancing).
Routines create stability for kids, however, when routines are disrupted there are other ways to create stability. This includes adapting family traditions. Family is a constant for children, even if the holidays look different this year. Try making a recurring game night tradition, reading a chapter book aloud every night after dinner, or make art together once a week. For more non-holiday tradition ideas during a pandemic, check out this article.
For the holidays, allow kids and teens to pick a new holiday movie or make a holiday playlist. Making decisions like this helps them feel in control when everything else feels out of control. Have them pick out a new book to read out loud after dinner, or choose a game for everyone to play during the holidays. Kids and teens can also make cards and gifts for each family member. Check out our recent blog on creative gifts to make at home. You can also encourage kids to make new decorations for around the house or order some online. Getting them involved with decorating and baking for the holidays is a great way to form new traditions and adapt old ones.
When looking for ideas for new traditions, try making handmade presents instead of buying them. This can be helpful if your budget is looking slimmer than last year as well. Establishing a tradition of generosity can also be another wallet-friendly idea. Check out our blog for ideas on teaching kids about generosity. You might try filling a stocking with donated items from your house, like gently used books and toys for children in need.
If you usually cook or eat at a relative’s house, try ordering food from a favorite restaurant for the holidays. If you are cooking, have the kids design a Christmas menu. You might also try a recipe swap with friends and coworkers–exchanging favorite holiday recipes.
A new tradition could be doing a craft together like creating an ornament (there are easy-to-use kits you can buy!), doing a puzzle, or making handmade cards for elderly neighbors. Do you celebrate your heritage or does your family have an affinity for a certain country? Research that country’s holiday traditions and incorporate one into your holiday celebrations. You could also read a book out loud together every night, and you could even include a virtual friend or family member for that one.
Are you looking for more support during this stressful time? Please reach out to us. Our team of therapists is here to provide support and guidance. We look forward to connecting with you.
Kate is the Founder and Clinical Director of Sage House Counseling & Art Therapy. With nearly ten years of clinical experience, I partner with you to connect back to your authentic, true self. The self that desires happiness, abundance and greater self-compassion. I work with clients just like you because I believe we all have the innate ability to heal and grow when we are heard and supported.