For many American families, the holidays are anticipated year-round as a chance for friends and family to come together in celebration and gratitude. However, this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic still threatening the health and safety of people all over the world, it’s very likely that your holidays are going to be radically different than ever before.
Alternate Ways to Connect
Social distancing is the new normal, and unfortunately that means so is feeling isolated. You might be cut off from family because of social distancing, travel restrictions, a compromised immune system or other limitations. Don’t despair! We are fortunate to live in a world where distance doesn’t automatically mean no connection. Using smart phones, tablets, computers, video platforms and communication apps, you can plan ways to connect virtually with your loved ones this holiday. Below are some ideas for staying connected even when you cannot see each other in person:
- Get a group message going with your family. WhatsApp is a popular free app that transcends restrictions between iPhone and Android users, and is great for group chats, sending videos, and staying connected. Use a group chat to plan virtual get-togethers with your family.
- Video chat your family members, one on one or with a group. Popular free video chat apps include: Skype, Zoom and Facetime.
- Playing games online with family members has become increasingly popular as social restrictions don’t allow for in-person game nights anymore. There’s a variety of games that will make family video sessions engaging and fun for all ages, while maintaining social distance. Check out 10 Best Family Game Apps to Play with Your Family for ideas!
- If you don’t feel confident using certain virtual platforms, there’s never been a better time to learn. There are free video tutorials on YouTube.com, all you need is internet access to start learning! If you’re already app-savvy, reach out to anyone who might feel in the dark and left behind, and offer to help them connect virtually with their loved ones.
Plan Social Distance Activities
At some point you will need to set down the electronics and get outside. Businesses and organizations have done their best to adjust to social distance requirements. Some restaurants serve exclusively outdoors and some church and worship services are held outdoors. Outdoor markets, outdoor picnics or yoga, socially distanced walks, hikes, bicycle rides and window shopping are all great options to get you moving and give your mental health a boost. Make a list of places you might want to go and call ahead to ask about their adaptations for maintaining sanitization and social distance, and any special requirements they might have for attendees.
Embrace the Changes
Resisting the changes brought on by this pandemic will only cause unnecessary stress. Do your best to embrace the changes and make them work for you and your family. In an article on AARP Susan Moeller points out that whittling down the holiday expectations, giant feasts, long guest list and white-Christmas expectations can actually be a big relief. There is so much pressure to host perfect holidays that embracing downsizing should bring about a healthier, more casual Christmas. It’s a great time to start new traditions and break away from the status quo. Challenge yourself to adjust the holiday to fit new needs and engage your family members for some creative brainstorming.
People will have a rare opportunity this year to be a little bit selfish, and that’s fine. If you’re going to be alone for the holiday, consider a self-care day and spoil yourself. Do exactly what you want to do, cook what you want to cook and don’t make apologies for not taking care of others. If you have to be home, try to make the most of it.
Keep the Spirit Alive
Don’t skip out on what you love just because there won’t be any witnesses or guests to enjoy it with you. If you love decking the halls, decorating the tree, baking sugar cookies, watching Christmas movies, then definitely do all those things. And you don’t have to do it alone! The great thing about free video apps: you can have family members present all day while you cook and decorate.
Even with all these modern-day solutions, you still may feel disconnected and cut off from family, which can take a mental toll during the holiday season. The reality is that many people will go through this year’s holidays isolated from friends and family or will experience a highly modified family get together. Though it’s tough to adhere to isolation and virtual connection, it’s important to focus on the positives: friends, family, nature, your passions and hobbies. The pandemic has changed the way we live, but it should not change what we are grateful for.
Remember that you’re not alone. Everyone in the world is having a unique set of struggles and challenges dealing with the pandemic, feeling lonely, and dealing with drastic life changes. We are certainly all in this together. If you are struggling with feelings of loneliness or isolation, and would like to speak with a therapist, please reach out to us at Family and Child Development. We are here to support you virtually or in-person, depending on your specific needs.