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Q: I’m dreading this holiday season. Most of the things our family usually does are impossible because of COVID. And to top that off, we’re stuck at home with the kids for two weeks without much to do or any support. Help!
A: First, you are not alone: I’ve been hearing the same fear and sadness from so many parents.
In previous years, many of us would have been busy over the next few weeks with holiday parties, concerts and visiting or hosting friends or relatives. The kids’ school vacation would have been filled up with family activities and playdates. Instead? We are restricted from travelling or gathering with loved ones and the children are stuck at home without many diversions.
We need to take a little time to let ourselves feel the sadness of this year and for all the things we’re missing out on. Trying to push it away, or telling ourselves that it’s silly to be sad is a recipe for burnout.
Give yourself permission to have a cry or ask for a hug and let your feelings out. It’s okay to miss your loved ones and your traditions. Yes, others have it worse – luckily it’s not a contest. Giving yourself some compassion doesn’t take it away from anyone else.
Since you’re going to be stuck at home without much to do, you need to take care of yourself. You as the parent set the tone in your household. Put yourself on the to-do list so that you can meet the needs of your family. It is essential to get enough sleep, get some exercise and take breaks when you can.
Try to get outside every day with the kids if you can
There is no bad weather, only bad clothing! Bundle up and get outside. Go for walks. If you have snow, go sledding, make a snowman or make snow ice cream. Feed the birds.
Find a balance between letting kids be bored and providing activities for the family
You might provide one activity a day for the kids to do or for you to do together. You can finger paint, make a fort, create an indoor treasure hunt – the greatest ideas and creativity often come out of boredom.
We all get tired of each other at some point even if we love each other. Give siblings breaks from each other. If you have a partner, you can spell each other off to take breaks.
Take advantage of extra time
One thing I am hearing from parents is that without all the things they usually do at this time of year, they have more time. Start reading a chapter book to your kids. Do a big puzzle. Try to embrace this time spent at home if you can.
Make some new traditions or adapt old ones
Light the menorah on a Zoom call with a different group or friends or family every night. Have a family slumber party by the Christmas tree. Make popcorn and watch holiday-themed movies for family movie night. Make paper snowflakes, string popcorn or make other holiday decorations or ornaments. Make a reverse advent calendar: Add to a basket for a shelter or the food bank every day and then donate it. Walk or drive around to look at the holiday lights at night. Deliver mystery/Secret Santa cards to neighbours.
Hopefully by next year we will be able to gather again with friends and family. It’s okay to feel sad about how different things are this year. Try to take care of yourself so that you can be gracious with your family in this challenging time. At the same time, let’s enjoy the time and space that has been created in our lives due to COVID restrictions. Use the opportunity to make some new family traditions and celebrate in ways that are meaningful to us. And who knows? Maybe we’ll keep some of them next year.
Sarah Rosensweet is a parenting coach who lives in Toronto with her husband and three children, ages 12, 15 and 18. Do you have a parenting question? Send your dilemmas to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.