How to help children and young people navigate Christmas during the Covid-19 Pandemic, By Anna Bampou
Christmas is a little different this year!
Christmas 2020 is getting nearer and we are aware that Christmas is going to be different to what we are used to.
For some there is an excitement that comes with it; seeing it as an opportunity to create a new or different Christmas experience. We might feel a relief from having a chance to not conform with the more typical, mundane and somewhat frustrating aspects of Christmas.
For others this is not the case. We might feel concerned about how we will be able to cope with this sort of different Christmas, and what the impact on our loved ones will be. We might already have been impacted by the loneliness and isolation that Covid-19 brought to our lives and therefore feel heart-broken to have to do Christmas differently this year.
No matter what, this Christmas feels different and that is also true for children and young people.
So, here are some useful points to think about and perhaps try and use with our children and young people this Christmas, especially for those who feel anxious and unsettled with Christmas being different to what we have been used to before:
- Checking in with children and young people. Making the space and time for such conversations to happen in the lead up to the holidays by creating a relaxed atmosphere to start such conversations is the first step. We can then start talking and helping them to identify what they might be looking forward to the most and what they might feel worried about.
- Understanding their needs and what each of us in the family needs plays a crucial role to reducing stress and lowering the risk of family arguments. Understanding what matters to each one in the family, and planning ahead, can potentially reduce anxiety.
- Planning to spend time together but also for each one in the family to have time to themselves. Unstructured down time, or engaging in separate activities is as important as being all together.
- For separated parents it is important to understand that children and young people may worry about making a decision with whom they want to spend Christmas with. It is helpful for parents to come together to make a joint decision and discuss any plans, how they will work for everyone involved and include the children/young people by keeping them at the centre of all decisions.
- Arrange time outdoors for walks. Children and young people can easily feel stuck indoors and this in turn can increase tension and anxiety.
- Be aware of the type of conversations taking place in front of children and young people. Trying to keep difficult financial or emotional conversations private can help them to not feel the anxieties that their parents may be experiencing.
- Be kind to ourselves and invest in our own self-care. This will mean something different to each one of us. Looking after oneself as a parent means that we are looking after the children or young people in our family.
- Talk openly to children and young people and help them to accept that what is happening and all the thoughts and feelings that accompany this are real and normal. We might not be able to celebrate like we had in previous years but we can find ways to give meaning, purpose, and joy to the festive days.
- Create a loose plan and structure with some variety so that the festive days don’t feel like a drag or a completely shapeless and endless thing. Children and young people like to have some routine as it helps them to regulate and manage better their feelings and feel in control.
- The combination of the pandemic and Christmas makes it easy for us to look at what we once had but don’t have anymore, worry about the future and feel sad, desperate and hopeless. Trying to practice being grateful with our children and young people for all those things and people that we have and appreciating them, it can be the best antidote against feeling anxious, depressed and overwhelmed.
- Allow some quiet time for those who feel like in need of a good cry at some point over Christmas. Building in such a time can prove important for children and young people in taking away the pressure to keep their sadness and worries away so as to not ruin it for others or bringing the mood down.
- Help children and young people to think this Christmas as a unique entity and not a replicate. Attempt to find out with them how else Christmas can be celebrated and enjoyed.
Maybe during this different sort of Christmas in 2020, we can all spend some time to reflect on how far we come this year, while we hope and plan for a better one!