How Can Parents Plan, Prepare & Remain Positive for Holidays in a Pandemic

holidays in a pandemic

How Can Parents Plan, Prepare & Remain Positive for Holidays in a Pandemic

As a Pediatrician, I worry about how the pandemic could affect the holiday season for families. Will families be able to enjoy the holidays like in years past? How will things change with social distancing and concerns about illness?

Below are things parents might keep in mind to make the most of the upcoming holiday season.

Focus On the Positive & Plan for What We Can

This year is so different from years past that we literally have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to holidays during the pandemic. By getting creative, however, our brains remain focused on the good things we look forward to and not so much what is different this year.

I tell parents all the time that children thrive and remain calm when they know their routine and boundaries. Adults are no different! We depend upon planning and predictability. While we cannot predict what might happen in a pandemic, we sure can plan, plan, plan for what we do know!  

Most of us eagerly await Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all year long. (Maybe even more so this year when we have been socially distancing for what seems like forever.) Just like we would plan these events in previous years, we must do so now. Planning something, making a list, and then being able to cross things off that list not only feels gratifying, it also increases that sense of control over our lives. 

Here are some ideas on how parents can get creative with their plans for upcoming holidays in a pandemic: 


Halloween in Pandemic

Here are some spooktacular ways to turn up the haunt: 

  • In the house, room-to-room, trick-or-treating events. Make a theme for each room. Have an adult in each room waiting for the kids to come to trick-or-treat there. While kids are in the room, how about some tricks to spook & entertain them? 
  • In the yard, scavenger hunts with neighboring homes while still socially distancing. Place pumpkin, ghost, or witch shaped treats in the bushes & gardens and tell kids how many treats to look for before they go to the next home. Akin to an Easter egg hunt, it creates excitement and a basket full of candy all at the same time!
  • Pre-packed goodie bags at the far end of the driveway that kids can pick up as they come by trick-or-treating. This allows families to sit at the other end of the driveway, socially distanced, in costume, and able to share the excitement as children walk up in their costumes ready for treats & howls.
  • Neighborhood wide socially distanced costume parades with candy chutes to drop candies to the kids from 6-10 feet away. The idea of a candy chute keeps the candy-givers away from the candy-takers and minimizes hand-to-hand contact. And who doesn’t love a costume parade?

Quite honestly, as parents, we might be getting more involved than we have been with Halloween in years! We’re not just walking the kids around the neighborhood or handing out candies at the door… We’re getting down to every detail with each moment of Halloween this year! There may not be as many Halloween parties to attend after taking the kids trick-or-treating… Why not make it an evening of fright-filled fun for the family?!?!

Thanksgiving & Christmas

Thanksgiving in pandemic

Normally, the pre-holiday period is filled with figuring out who is traveling where for which holidays and who is doing the cooking! 

Here are some ways to spin the wheel a different way this year:

  • Plan a Zoom Festivity. Everyone can get dressed up, sit down to a formal meal in their own homes at the same time, and talk together on Zoom like they would have in previous years. Tech-savvy households might even connect the Zoom event to their televisions so they can interact with other family members on the big screen.
  • What about a virtual cook together? Everyone can make a special dish at their home at the same time and share recipes together. In years past, during the hustle with relatives in the household, it was hard to learn how the elders in the household were making those favorite family recipes. A virtual cook together gives everyone a spotlight on sharing special secrets passed down through the generations. 
  • Remember Secret Santa? What if family members picked a kid for whom to be a Secret Santa and then sent letters & postcards (without a written return address) throughout the season until a grand finale gift finally revealed who the Secret Santa was? 

These are just a few ideas of a socially distanced, pandemic safe holiday. The air is abuzz with people getting excited about the spirit of the season ahead… Ask friends, neighbors, and relatives what they’re thinking might be fun this year!


Shift our Focus from Ourselves to Others

shift our focus

Holidays are a tough time for people who are less fortunate. They want to celebrate and share the joy like everyone else, but often do not have the resources. This year, because of the pandemic, it’s even worse. People have lost their jobs, people have lost their loved ones, people are having to adapt in ways that they could not have imagined. Pushing through to figure out the path of survival in these times can be difficult & challenging. It can increase the feelings of depression & loneliness during the holidays to say the very least. 

We expect to see the Salvation Army Volunteer with his bell in front of grocery stores during the holidays. Sometimes, we’ll drop some change in his basket. Why not take that extra step this year? The holidays are a great time to teach our children about the spirit of giving. 

Here’s how we can help our kids shift focus from themselves to helping others: 

  • Feed the homeless at a shelter or donate to those in need. Many times us parents will complete these tasks without taking the time to explain them to our kids. We expect they’ll learn “once they get older.” Inculcating these values from the very get-go will help build the depth of their character & make them ready to survive life’s challenges (like a pandemic) in the future.
  • Donate to charity. Get your children involved when you write a check for charity. Let them put the check in the envelope, put the stamp on it, and go with you to the post box to drop it in the mail. Make them feel proud of being the light for someone in darkness. 
  • Find out who in your neighborhood has lost family members to COVID this year. Make a special basket for that family, have your children draw pictures or make cards for them. Focus on sharing love when everything is uncertain. 

On that Note: Keep Elderly & High-Risk Family Safe

keep elderly safe

With the risk of severe consequences & death from COVID-19 in the elderly, they have probably faced more isolation this year than any of us. Trying to limit their exposure to illness, many elderly have not gone out to the grocery stores to do their own shopping nor taken walks in the park. They may not have even stepped out of the house long enough to get their needed doses of COVID protective Vitamin D

Most elderly eagerly await the holidays to see loved ones every year. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases asked his 3 daughters to travel home for Thanksgiving to be with him & his wife. Knowing the risks due to the pandemic and the age of their parents, all 3 daughters declined the visit. Though Anthony Fauci the doctor more than likely understood, Anthony Fauci the dad was probably sad. 

The elderly are already dealing with many medical issues and don’t need depression & loneliness added to their lists. Depression can actually make the elderly more prone to getting sick. We’d be stressed much more during these holidays if our loved ones were sick or in the hospital & we couldn’t be close enough to take care of them because of the pandemic. 

Though we need to keep them safe during COVID-19, we can get creative to keep them involved, engaged & happy. We may not be able to sit next to them & hug them right now, but we sure can show our love & interest in their lives.

  • Mail grandma the ingredients for something she makes that you love to eat. (Maybe her world-famous pie???) Then, get on FaceTime with her while she makes it. Ask questions and talk to grandma while she completes the production. Talking to the grandkids is the next best thing to having them alongside in the kitchen. 
  • Set up a weekly video chat. Ask grandpa to share a story from his childhood about the holidays or school or his first job. Ask grandma what mom or dad was like as a kid. Many times elderly are just waiting for somebody to ask them the question & they have a world of stories to share with enthusiasm. 
  • Send grandparents a letter or card. Grandparents grew up writing letters. (That’s well before the internet & maybe even before it was convenient to use phones.) How about writing letters & sending cards/drawings to grandparents every 2-3 days? They’d love to receive letters/packages & even more, love to send packages back to you. 


In Conclusion

I can do it

One of my favorite sayings is, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it.” Attitude is everything! Look forward to the upcoming holidays in a pandemic that are so much more precious this year because of the pandemic we’re experiencing. Get creative about how to make the holidays special for those less fortunate or loved ones we can’t see this year. Keep the whole family involved every step of the way. Kids love to make a difference. If they feel like there is a role they can play in what’s going on around them, they’ll stay engaged & energetic. The pandemic has been described as a marathon… and any marathon is a great opportunity to plan, prepare & remain positive!


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