This blog post originally appeared on One Tough Job, our parenting website.
Break the News: Preparing Your Kids for the Holiday Season
The holidays look different this year, and it’s normal for the entire family to feel disappointment, frustration, and fatigue as we enter in the first holiday season during coronavirus. Here are some tips on how to talk to your kids, stay connected to the people we love no matter where they are, and start new family traditions. We hope that however you plan to celebrate, these pointers help you and your children find joy.
Help them feel their feelings
It’s normal and understandable for children to feel disappointed about the changing holidays, especially if they’ve been looking forward to the season for weeks or even months. It can feel like a big blow when you deliver the news.
Model a positive outlook: say “I’m disappointed we can’t ____. But I’m glad to be together as a family.” Tell them it’s ok to feel upset; not everyone feels comforted by reframing it in a positive light. Encourage them to share with you how they are feeling. Listen, make eye contact, and nod supportively. Some children want a hug, others want safe ways to experience upset or anger (screaming into a pillow is a good option). Some children want to be distracted and play a game instead. Ask them how they’d like proceed, and offer options.
Include family virtually
Oftentimes, the holidays are an ideal time for families to gather. It’s a chance to reunite with the grandparents, take a break while aunts and uncles watch the kids, or have your children spend time with their cousins. For many families, that isn’t going to be safe or possible this year. We can still include family in celebrations!
Having a Zoom call or FaceTime call can help soothe children by giving them a chance to see their relatives in real-time. It’s also great for the extended family members themselves. Encourage your child to have a game of show-and-tell with a favorite toy, drawing, or book they like to read. If you or your child feel “Zoom-ed out,” the old-fashioned telephone call is a great alternative. Children who are getting used to phone calls will benefit from some prompting from you: encourage them to ask their relatives questions, and keep the conversation short for best results. You can be nearby and offer to step in and continue the conversation with your relative if your child looks flustered or overwhelmed.
Send holiday mail
Bring your household together to draw winter scenes and holiday greetings – regular paper is all you need, and it’s the handmade touch that will really feel special. Friends and family you normally spend the holidays with will be delighted to receive one-of-a-kind mail.
You can prompt your child to think of their letter(s) differently based on their age group. Children under 4 can tackle drawing a picture of their choosing, maybe with some suggestions like ‘snowman’ or ‘hot cocoa,’ depending on what they like. Elementary school-age children can dictate to you what they’d like their card to say and/or help you write it. Have them try writing the “Dear ___” section and signing their name at the end, and you handle the rest. Children who are already avid readers and writers can draw and write a short note by themselves.
Children may not know that there used to be a time in history when mail was the only way to communicate with loved ones who lived far away. Ask them open-ended questions: if you were alive back then, who would you write letters to? How often would you want to hear from your friends who were writing you letters? Ask them to imagine how life would be different.
Start new traditions together
This one works best as a combination of prompts from you, and group brainstorming with your child(ren). Think of a tradition you normally do, and if it is not possible under COVID-19 circumstances, think about how you can tweak an aspect of it to make it possible.
You can start by saying, “This year, I thought we could try ___ as a family. What do you think?” Give your child time to think, and listen carefully when they respond. Try not to interrupt. Even if the idea they come up with is not doable, thank them for contributing and then redirect to an idea that does work. They will feel important and mature for being part of the decision.
It’s going to be a strange holiday season, but we believe in you and your family! Let us know if you have any cool new traditions you start, and stay warm, healthy, and safe.
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About One Tough Job
One Tough Job was launched to provide all parents with access to the information and resources that are available at Children’s Trust programs. For over ten years, the website has provided parents with the most current and reliable parenting information. Backed by thirty years of experience working with and listening to parents, One Tough Job connects parents in Massachusetts and beyond with the latest and greatest parenting information, ideas, and on-the-ground resources. One Tough Job also provides a bridge to help parents find other moms and dads who have asked the same questions and faced similar challenges.