For many families, holidays are the best time of year. From Halloween to New Year’s Day, homes are decorated, favorite family recipes are recreated in the kitchen and travel plans are confirmed. Children, as well as adults, anticipate seeing family members that live far away, and dream about those much-wanted gifts. Holidays are often the opportunities where families gather for dinners, religious celebrations and other traditional rituals.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic will pose challenges to our typical holiday celebrations,” says Dr. Hilary Bowers, director, behavioral and mental health at CPCMG. “Under normal circumstances, the holidays can be a bit stressful – the pandemic means you will have to make additional decisions that will affect your family’s plans as well as their safety.”

Here are a few tips for finding your way through this year’s holiday season:

Make safe choices.
It’s important to continue to protect yourself and your family from the coronavirus, as well as the flu. In addition to practicing the 3 W’s (wear a face covering, wait six feet apart and wash hands often or use hand sanitizer), reconsider the family dinner with out-of-town guests. The CDC has provided additional guidance for the holidays.

If you’ve been invited to socialize with family or friends at their home, do they share your views on social distancing or masks? Establish your expectations by telling them you really want to see them and explain what would make your family feel safe. Setting boundaries is important even when it might be hard to do.

While the holidays are historically a time for large crowds to shop in-person, that might not be safe during the pandemic. Instead of a last minute dash to the mall or big box store, plan ahead and order items online for curbside pickup or delivery. Also, consider supporting a small business and shop in your neighborhood.

Set realistic expectations.
Whether we like it or not, the pandemic means that we are experiencing a “new normal.” Expecting perfection should not be your goal. Remember that you’re doing your best under very challenging circumstances.

Be sure to set realistic expectations for your kids, who by this point have experienced a wide range of emotions. Parents can’t always prevent their kids from feeling letdown or disappointed, but we can let them know we understand their emotions. Talking to them about how they feel can lead to a creative session where the family can come up with new holiday traditions.

Don’t forget self-care.
Take time for yourself.  Any amount of time you can carve out of the family routine for a short break can help you regroup and refocus.

  • Try a free meditation app or yoga class.
  • Choose healthy foods to give yourself long-term energy. While the occasional surgery treat is ok, avoid the crash brought on by a binge of high-sugar content foods.
  • Reach out to your primary care physician and schedule routine checkups. Maintain your best health!
  • Get your body moving and make exercise part of your daily routine. Consider a walk around the neighborhood or at a local park – the fresh air will help clear your head and increase your serotonin levels. This natural chemical produced by your body will help relieve anxiety, moodiness and depression. The end result is that you’ll feel more present and more able to enjoy the day.
  • Aim for at least seven hour of quality, uninterrupted sleep.
  • Listen to music – whether you crank up your favorite song for an impromptu family dance party or pick up an instrument, music is invigorating and can lighten up the mood.

Don’t forget that this pandemic is still new territory for all of us. At CPCMG, not only are we pediatricians, but we’re parents, too. During these challenging times, we’re here to support you. Please contact us with any questions or concerns and we can get you to the best resources for your family.