If there is anything that has been predictable about this year, it’s how unpredictable it has been. No doubt your kids have experienced major changes and disappointments this year. Changes to anticipated events like special celebrations, birthdays and holidays can be particularly challenging—especially for kids. So, here are a few tips on how to support your kids as you navigate this holiday season and COVID.
First and foremost—validate their feelings! Acknowledging what your kids are experiencing helps them feel heard and understood. Reassure your kids that it’s okay for them to feel sad, angry and disappointed about the changes in holiday plans this year. For example, “You’re angry we can’t see your cousins this holiday season, it’s okay to feel angry.” You can even share your own perspective, “I’m disappointed we can’t go visit them this year too.” By taking the time to really pause and hear your child out (without punishing or minimizing), you can help them move through their big emotions.
Prep your kids for changes in your holiday routine—this is especially important for younger kids. Having multiple discussions about what will be different this year will give kids time to work through their feelings and prepare for the upcoming changes. “Our Christmas is going to look different this year because we are staying home to be safe. First, we will open presents together here as a family, then we will eat breakfast while we Facetime Nana and Papa.” Planning and prepping kids for the holidays will help create predictability and will result in less stress for everyone. Preparing kids for what to expect will also give them something to look forward to and get excited about!
3. Get Creative
Lastly, get creative. There are so many ways to create special and lasting memories this holiday season. Giving your children choices or asking them how they would like to celebrate can help them feel empowered. It also gives them a chance to assert their independence in a healthy way.
Here are a few ideas for how to get creative this holiday season:
- Use technology (Zoom, Facetime, Facebook Messenger, Skype) to connect with others who aren’t in your household. Use this as an opportunity to create a new tradition—like everyone dressing up in their silliest holiday attire or creating special hats to wear during the video call.
- Ask your child what special meal or dessert they would like to make and help them do it. The time and memories you spend together will be worth any mess that is created!
- Go for a walk or a drive to find different holiday light displays. Have everyone vote on their favorite displays.
- Join friends or family for a virtual cookie decorating party, look up decorative inspiration online.
- Have your own caroling party—even better get outside and walk around singing with your kids. You may even make someone’s day!
- Host a virtual watch party on Netflix or Disney + so you can watch your favorite holiday movie with all your loved ones.
- Think of something good that happened each month during this year and write it down on paper or cardstock. Decorate it with whatever art supplies you have and use it as part of your holiday décor!
- Research how holidays are celebrated around the world, incorporate some of those traditions into your family.
By validating your kid’s emotions, preparing them for upcoming changes and getting creative with how you celebrate the holidays this year, you are helping your kids build resiliency. Your kids will be able to look back on this year and remember the creative ways they celebrated at home—despite the challenging year.
Danae Samson, AMFT is a clinical therapist, in The Guidance Center’s Long Beach Out Patient program, where she helps guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. She is especially passionate about parent education and working with families to build positive communication and lasting relational change. Before joining The Guidance Center team in 2020, Samson worked with at-risk youth and families at Child and Family Center in Santa Clarita as an Intern. Samson earned a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Fuller Theological Seminary.