COVID19 & Changing Holiday Traditions

COVD19 + Holiday Traditions: COVID19 is causing havoc with life, it is hitting us again and it now hurts us even more, namely our changing holiday traditions. With a new round of lock downs and restrictions we are faced with making very difficult holiday family gathering decisions. So we see our family and friends or cancel our holiday traditions. How do we make such changes? What do we do to make this decision is the question. Here are some ways to deal with this set back and facing changing holiday traditions.

First, It is important that people let go of the notion of how people celebrated holidays in the past and accept the fact that they need to change their expectations this year.  Changing family celebrations and expectations is not an easy task for one person.  Plus, add to the challenge of making changes is when there are multiple family members and children involved in this decision-making process with their own ideas and history of family traditions.

The process of accepting the idea of a limited or distant holiday meal and celebration is important to understand to arrive at that place of acceptance.

Here are some tips to help you let go of past expectations and accept the notion of a possible stay-at-home holiday season:

1.  Rethink + Re-Image your holiday traditions immediately
Step 1: Facing Reality 

It is time to face reality that holiday dinners and parties will not likely happen this year if you are following pandemic guidelines.  The key here is to create a new, quarantine/pandemic way to connect and celebrate that you can all agree on.

It is important to start talking and planning now and avoid the late minute stress of what do we do.  Planning now can help you start to make a list of options and give a bit of time to evaluate each one with one another. Don’t wait to the last second.  During this time of uncertainty it is a benefit to have a couple options you can all agree on. This approach helps build some predictability which has been missing in all our lives this year.  This approach can lessen depression and anxiety.  As a result of this approach you can channel this energy into a problem-solving mode which is crucial to cope.

Step 2:  How to Manage Family Expectations + Reactions

Do not expect to recreate the memories of past holidays: 
Have everyone think about what they like about the holidays and problem-solve ways to capture that feeling in a new creative way.  Try to be flexible, we are all in the same boat. People who focus on problem-solving during this time are less anxious and depressed and see this challenge will not last forever.

Make a list of options and then have everyone sleep on it before talking again and making final choices.

Once deciding whether to skip the holiday trip or greatly modify the family gathering, you are going to have to cope not just with your own emotions but your family’s emotions and reactions as well.

If you and your family member begin to feel irritated, angry, anxious or down, it is important to accept that these responses are normal reactions and understandable during such a long-lasting, difficult time.

Step 3:  Be Patient + Reassure family You Love + Care About Them
If you chose to not visit everyone in person, they do need reassurance that you still love, value and care about them. Talk with your family and friend about how you love and care about them and that your absence or remote visits via video call is difficult for you too. Express how you miss them and that they are important to you.  By expressing yourself, you become a good role model for them in many ways and take the heat out of some member feeling less important or left out.

Acknowledge everyone’s emotions of sadness or disappointment is important. Expressing and encouraging them to talk about this can make a even stronger bond between everyone. 

I have seen families grow even closer together during this pandemic because they have made time to call and talk with each other more than in the past.  It is possible to become stronger and grow closer together even with the challenge and stress of not seeing your family and friends as you wish this holiday.

Regarding children and young teens in the family
.  Let them how the holiday is not canceled completely and you are doing this differently this year.  Give them the same reassurance as you did with the adults, that you love and care for them too. They will observe how adults are handling these hard decisions and will learn how to cope and adapt in life. Remember that you and your family and friend are role-models for these future generations.

However you decide how to spend the holidays, most of us will still have the feelings of loneliness and feelings of loss in our being. So if you find yourself still longing to visit after rationally making choices with your family use the time alone to reflect and take care of yourself. Think about who and what you value about the holidays.
Explore what you can do while stuck at home and connect with family and friends via Zoom or other video chat method. Be creative. You may set up a time to eat together and visit online to experience and create the sense of connection that you are ongoing to feel a loss about if you don’t try.

Even with the difficulties people faced during this pandemic, some surveys and research has showed some people managed to find some positives in their experiences. I have also observed this trend with my clients. Slowing down helps you think and evaluate your life and other issues. It makes you face what you may have been running away from by being busy.

This is a good time for Reflection + Taking Care of Yourself
Many people reported that while quarantine and social distancing was difficult, it has made them value their relationships even more. People report that the pandemic has made them reevaluate how they spend and will spend their time. It also has made them re-evaluate their life goals.

Some believe that it has changed their way of life and their future.  For example, some people who were furloughed and let go from their jobs have use this as an opportunity to explore and change careers. They are ending negative relationships that do not serve them anymore. In summary, people are reevaluating their priorities in many aspects of their lives.  

The pandemic has generally been motivating people to take better care of health issues. 
Not traveling or engaging in holiday meals and drinks will help people stay in routine with their self-care habits such as exercising and eating healthy.  Which means more time to take care of themselves and making time for their significant others and immediate family members. After all is you don’t take care of yourself and recharge, how can you be of help to you and the people that matter to you most.

Written by Dr. Mary Ann Mercer, co-founder of

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