Social Distancing Causing the Holiday Blues? Stay Safe Without Losing the Holiday Spirit

family eating socially distance

Socially distanced holiday

Whether it’s enjoying a Thanksgiving feast, attending special religious services, or inviting extended family over for New Year’s, the holiday season is marked by gathering with the people you love.

Coming together and seeing loved ones is a meaningful part of the holiday season. But this year, seeing others in person can be risky. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to keep up social distancing, even during the holidays.

Understandably, this can be very disheartening — especially for children who are used to looking forward to time off from school, spending more time with their friends, or going to Grandma’s.

However, social distancing doesn’t need to mean spending the holidays without your family — and it certainly doesn’t mean that the season will come without the holiday spirit.

Here are 5 ways to make sure that the COVID-19 Grinch doesn’t steal the holidays from you and your family:

1. Take Your Holiday Party Virtual.

By now, it’s not surprising if you’re feeling a little “Zoom-fatigued.” But with a little creativity, you can push past that fatigue and have a great holiday party via video chat.

Instead of having everyone sign on and start talking over one another, plan a game or two ahead of time. There are plenty of family-friendly games to play via video chat, from charades to online Scattergories to virtual Bingo.

Also, try to make your virtual party as much like your usual party as you can. Does your family usually dress up or don “ugly sweaters?” Keep up the dress code. Is there a favorite dish that you make every year? Make sure everyone has the recipe so you can all enjoy it together. If you live close enough, you can even deliver “party kits” to your guests that include food, games, and anything else you need to party together (but not together).

2. Embrace the Changes.

It’s easy to think of what you’re missing out on this season, whether it’s a canceled party or not having in-person religious services. But instead of dwelling on forgone traditions, take this time to create some new ones.

  • Gingerbread House Contest: This isn’t a competition with each other — it’s against yourselves. Build a fully decked-out gingerbread house, with the goal of making an even bigger one every year.
  • Room Decorating: Holiday decorations tend to start and stop on the front lawn or in shared family spaces, like the living room. While you’ve got some extra time, let your child decorate their own bedroom. Hang lights on their windows, have an arts and crafts session where they can create their own decorations, or even swap out their light bulbs for holiday-colored ones. Every morning, they will wake up in the holiday spirit.
  • Secret Snowman: If you have a bigger family, Secret Snowman is a fun way to do a gift exchange. Here’s how it works:
    • A week before a celebration, have everyone pick a name of another family member from a hat. Make sure everyone keeps their pick a secret.
    • For the next week, everyone surprises their pick with hints or handmade cards or gifts. Since you’re all living in the same household, this involves some creativity.
    • At the end of the week, everyone guesses their Secret Snowman. You can also do this virtually.

3. Share Your Good Fortune With Others.

Have your family put together spirit kits — packages that include items like hand sanitizer, water bottles, non-perishable snacks, socks, and homemade holiday cards — to donate to homeless shelters. If soup kitchens are still operating near you, mask up and spend some family time volunteering.

Volunteering doesn’t just help others — it’s also a great way to improve your family’s mental health. Research has shown that volunteer work and donating can reduce stress, decrease the risk of depression, and improve self-esteem. There have even been some studies that show that while giving to others, the brain secretes “feel-good” chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin. Plus, it’s more time you get to spend bonding with your child and teaching them about the importance of giving and being selfless.

4. Stay Committed to Reducing Your Family’s Risk of COVID-19.

With the spirit of the season in the air, and the hustle and bustle of making sure that this year’s holidays are just as special as any other year, it can be easy to get a little complacent about COVID-19 prevention.

However, nothing can put a damper on the holidays like a family that’s been hit by the virus.

Keep up with your usual handwashing, mask-wearing, and disinfecting of surfaces that you’ve become a pro at all year. Also, make an extra effort to avoid crowds by planning ahead. Double and triple-check that you have all of your gifts and holiday dish ingredients in advance so that you don’t get caught in the last-minute crowds at toy or grocery stores.

And Black Friday shopping? Go virtual.

5. And Finally … Remember the Good.

Between the pandemic and civil unrest of the past year and months full of physical distancing from loved ones, it is completely understandable if you or your kids are feeling a little down this holiday season. But as you think about the tragedies of this past year, it’s also important to remember that you have a lot to be grateful for as the year wraps up.

In addition to being thankful that you and your family are healthy and safe, think about how fortunate we are to have our heroic healthcare workers, scientists who are working at record-speed to develop a vaccine, and people across the world coming together with a single goal.

Planning a holiday activity but not sure how to stay safe? You can always reach out to your child’s primary care provider with any questions about COVID-19 safety.

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