BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The holiday season is often a stressful time for families. Add to that the stress that comes with a pandemic, and it can be even more difficult, especially if kids are involved. That's why experts say now is the time to have the conversation with your family about how the holidays will look this year.
"Talk about the holiday pretty regularly, especially with children who might have an expectation of what the holiday should look like, or can clearly remember holidays in the past," explained Jamie Rackl, who works for EPIC, or Every Person Influences Children.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families won't be following their typical holiday traditions. That's a difficult thing for many adults to wrap their heads around - and experts say it can be equally as hard for children. Experts say stress in kids can look very different than it does in adults. For example, younger kids might throw more temper tantrums, or might look for comfort in places they haven't for years - like a blanket or favorite stuffed animal. Teens or older kids might be quieter than normal, or retreat to their rooms more often.
So how do you make sure everyone's expectations are the same, and find new fun in these different times? Experts say it's all about having those conversations, and brainstorming together.
Mom Liz Vetrano says she and her six-year-old daughter Eve have been finding new ways to celebrate this year, and finding joy in those.
"Instead of focusing this year on all the things we can't do we decided - we maybe are not going to get another year that's exactly like this, so what can we do this year?" she said.
Rackl says that's exactly the attitude families should take. She says it's perfectly fine, and even helpful, if adults show their frustration over the changing holiday season. That, she says, is an opportunity to talk about feelings with family members, and encouraging kids to share how they feel. Then, come up with a game plan together.
"We can acknowledge that this is hard and different, and we can set an example around resilience, and looking forward to something new," she said.
Vetrano and her daughter have been dressing up for fancy "holiday parties" at home, and safely dropping sweet treats off for family and friends.
"We've done a lot of ding dong ditches, and dropped Christmas cookies on people's doors and run away," she laughed.
If you're worried about missing out on family traditions this year -
Here are some holiday suggestions from experts to help you still feel connected to the season:
- Put everyone in the car, and check out holiday lights. Make a list of what you see - and share that with family and friends, even if they are out of town.
- Set a time for family members to connect virtually, and make everyone's favorite cookies together.
- Pick a holiday movie, and watch it at the same time, even if family members are all across the country.
- If you can be safely outside at a fire pit, make a fire, stay socially distant, and drink hot chocolate.
Vetrano says she and her daughter are planning more safe, socially-distant ways to still celebrate the holidays.
"Nobody knows what it's going to look like in a few weeks, but we can still build excitement right now about - we can still surprise people, and we can still be connected to people," she said.