My family loves to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade every year. Oddly, it isn’t for the floats, but we simply watch to see what Broadway Musicals will perform. We mute Al Rocker’s side commentary and get snacks when the Peanut Characters float by, but never do we miss a song and dance number from the years Tony award winners. My oldest started guessing which musicals will perform as soon as last year's parade ended, and we recently had to break it to her that there won’t be a parade this year.
The lack of a Macy’s Parade is minimal in comparison to the changes in our world that we have to explain to our children, but it does symbolize the loss of tradition, and trying to explain that isn’t easy. Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season for many. It represents family, cuddling, traveling, and eating our favorites around a big table. It signals school days off, story telling, and in our lovely state, ski season. This year, no doubt, will be very different.
So when do you start this conversation with your family, both your children and extended relatives? Maybe, like me, you are finding these conversations to be more difficult with the grandparents, aunts, and uncles than it is with your own children. If you have already begun to discuss it, you are familiar with the feelings of guilt and sadness, but also you may be seeing the amazing level of creativity that everyone is bringing forth.
It is important, for your child’s ability to process change in a way that seems less daunting, to start talking about what the holidays may look like sooner than later. The better prepared they are, the better they will likely handle things. Let them know that the holidays are about showing those you care about just how much you love them, and the best way to do that right now, is to stay safe and only be with immediate family. Talk about all the things that will be the same, like the type of food you eat or unwrapping one present on Christmas Eve as you always do. Maybe it’s the prayers you sing over the Hanukkah lights, or the family photos you take in front of the glowing fire. There are still things that can happen as usual. Then, you can help them get excited about creating new traditions this year, and let them have a say in what some of them are. This will give them back a little control in their quickly changing lives.
If COVID has brought one positive to our world, it is shining light on the level of ingenuity that we all possess, especially our children. The Boston Children’s Hospital shared some great ideas for how to get over the disappointment of change and focus on what you can do. They recommend honing in on the traditions that are most important to you and figuring out how you can adapt them. For my family, we will do a Broadway Musical marathon on Thanksgiving morning with the usual hot chocolate and pancakes. Here are some other ideas:
- Send care packages. Send your favorite holiday treats, special mementoes, or small gifts and open them together over Zoom or Facetime.
- Enjoy some friendly competition. Have a baking competition, then send the treats to each other. Or have a most creative dessert making event.
- Document what you’re doing. Whether you’re creating new traditions or celebrating in the ways you always have, keep a journal or take photos or videos to document this year’s experience. Hopefully some ideas from this year can be tied into the following years.
- Help others. This year, spread love to those in need by making homeless bags to drop off or cleaning out things you don't need and donating them. Also take time to call those who may be more isolated because of COVID.
- If possible, go porch hopping. You can do a quick hello at your friends and family’s houses to wish them well. Share a song you want to sing, leave them a treat, or show off a silly family themed costume.
This year, we will still be celebrating the things we have and the people we love, and that is the real meaning of the holidays. But it is okay to acknowledge that it doesn’t feel right, and possibly it feels really uncomfortable. So ask questions, let your children ask questions, and know that there isn’t always going to be one right answer. We are adapting as we go, we are accepting ourselves and others for what they can do, and we are being okay with not always being okay, and that seems to be the most fitting theme for holidays during a pandemic.