Wondering how to celebrate the holidays this year when COVID has made so much impossible?
This year we need to give ourselves space to mourn what we’re missing. We can also use this opportunity to create new traditions and make the best of a difficult situation. Many of our holiday traditions revolve around gathering with friends and family. The holiday season this year is going to be different. In the past, we hosted friends and family for Hanukkah or Christmas, or travelled to be with our loved ones or hosted them at our house. With COVID restrictions, many of us will not be gathering together this year.
First, the mourning. We need to first start by letting ourselves feel the disappointment and even grief about not getting to be with our loved ones. Our children will likely be very vocal about not getting to see grandparents, cousins and friends but we as adults might have a harder time giving ourselves permission to be sad. As you welcome all your child’s big feelings of sadness and disappointment and even anger (“It’s not fair!”), remember to give yourself the same compassion and empathy you are giving your child. You might even set aside a time to have a big old cry about it.
You might be thinking, “But I have so much. It’s wrong to feel sorry for myself when others have so little.” Guess what? Empathy is not in short supply. Being loving and kind to yourself does not mean you can’t recognize another person’s greater suffering. It’s not a contest.
Let yourself and your child feel all the big feelings. Laugh if you can and cry if you need to. When we welcome feelings and do something to process them (like laughing or crying), we move through the tunnel of our emotions. We come out the other side and feel okay again.
This year we need to give ourselves space to mourn what we’re missing. We can also use this opportunity to create new traditions and make the best of a difficult situation.
Here are some ideas for new traditions or activities (thanks to all the parents in my Facebook group who helped with suggestions!)
Family slumber party by the Christmas tree
Family movie nights with holiday-themed movies
Walking or driving around to see outdoor holiday lights and decorations (bonus: hot chocolate in a thermos)
Crafts (homemade wrapping paper, cards, ornaments)
Baking (cookies, gingerbread house, sufganiyot, rugelach)
Lighting the menorah and inviting different friends and family each night to join via Zoom
Reverse Advent calendar. Add daily to a basket with food bank donations or supplies for a homeless shelter
Deliver mystery/Secret Santa holiday cards to neighbours.
Listen to or sing holiday music.
Have a fancy holiday dinner by candlelight.
Make paper snowflakes and hang them in the windows.
Do you have more ideas? Add them in the comments below!
Fingers crossed that by next year we will be able to gather again with friends and family. This year, let’s enjoy the time and space that has been created in our lives due to COVID restrictions. While we are sad for traditions we can’t make happen this year, let’s make some new family traditions and celebrate in ways that are meaningful to us. And who knows? Maybe you’ll keep some of them next year!
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Sarah Rosensweet is a peaceful parenting coach and the parenting advice columnist for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 13, 16, and 19). Sarah teaches parents a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Find her at sarahrosensweet.com
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