Coping with COVID

Advice for the Weary and Worried

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Dear Wellness Expert –
The holidays are literally just around the corner, and I have no idea how I’m going to take on more stress and figure out all the holiday planning. I need direction because I’m having a hard time thinking my way through this.  How can I make the 2020 holiday season successful for my kids and family?
- Tired and Overwhelmed
Dear Tired –
Just because this year is like no other doesn’t mean that the holidays can’t be special.  In fact, right now is the time to bring your immediate family together and start having discussions as a “quaran-TEAM” about what you all hope to have happen this year. Just sitting down and opening up the conversation with your immediate family will take some of the burden on off and help you feel better. So, get around the kitchen table sooner than later and give space for everyone to share their hopes for this holiday season.  Make sure you’re being honest and up front about what can, and cannot, happen this year. The time invested in managing those expectations now will help free up the holidays to still be joyful; just in a different way. And try to remain judgement-free with your extended family.  Everyone is making tough choices this year, so while it’s totally understandable that you may not be happy with the choices family members are making, we all need acceptance and understanding more than ever before.
Holiday considerations for kids

Kids need different things from their caregivers around the 2020 holidays based on age and developmental levels. 
  • Really little kids don’t need extravagant celebrations and lots and lots of gifts to get lost in.  They really need time to snuggle, play and read together, and feel the comfort of their caregivers near them. 
  • Elementary school children need validation that it’s OK for them to feel disappointment, sadness or frustration with all the new holiday rules and restrictions.  But, it’s a great age to try out some new traditions together cooking in the kitchen, watching cartoon classics in the living room, or on the floor crafting.  Try exploring the internet for opportunities for virtual visits from Santa.  This is also a great age group to do some self-care practice time together and work on building up those skills for resiliency. 
  • Adolescents want to know that you are there if they need you, so provide opportunities to check in often (verbally or non-verbally) and watch them for signs of their being “off” their typical routines.  Offer them a sense of control where you can and encourage them to be great older siblings or help with making some of the memories super special for younger kiddos in the family or in their neighborhood.  
This is a season of all-new possibilities. Lean into technology and connect your families’ living rooms and dining rooms together over Zoom.  Try out some new recipes and signature side dishes (who says you HAVE to do turkey dinners all the time?!).  Do your holiday shopping online virtually with family and friends and see who can find the best deals to share.  Create boxed “to go” feasts and gift bags that can be delivered to your neighbors’ porches.  The options are endless! Keep in mind, sometimes the simplest ideas have the most long lasting impact, so give yourself permission to scale the holidays back this year and get back to the basics:  Time together as a family doing the things that you all love to do!    Whatever you do, document your celebration with lots of pictures so in the years ahead, you all can revisit some of the great memories and new traditions you made as a family.
Chris McLaughlin, LCSW, Associate Vice President, Community & Pediatric Services, Acadia Hospital
More advice from Northern Light’s experts

There is a gold mine of information and advice from your colleagues in Beacon Health’s Safe Return to Work Zoom series. Though it is a community resource angled toward helping businesses safely go about their business, there is a wealth of information simply addressing the health and wellbeing of people, in general. Of particular interest right now is “The Holidays: Balancing Kid Expectations, Your Diet and Family Obligations.” You may also be interested in checking out the news story WABI did with Chris on talking with kids about upcoming holidays. And, as always, if you want some personal advice along with a compassionate ear, reach out EAP. I can’t tell you what a world of difference it makes just to speak your challenge out loud. That right there is a load off. EAP’s number is 1.800.769.9819.