Peter Reisner, M.D.
Traditions play a big part in our lives during the holidays. However, it can be difficult to maintain the same traditions each year due to family changes, such as a lost loved one, unemployment, a new family member, divorce or separation, or a move. This year's COVID-19 pandemic brings additional challenges and concerns about social distancing and large group gatherings.
Here are 5 tips to help you navigate changes to your family holiday traditions:
1. Communicate your expectations.
Discuss with your family which traditions may change and why. This opens a dialogue and lessens the chance of hurt feelings or misunderstanding.
2. Aim for what works for this year only.
Some traditions can be difficult to let go of but aren't practical due to family changes and the COVID-19 pandemic. Focus on what brings you meaning this year, and give yourself permission to do something different next year. Consider creating a new tradition, such as ice skating or making holiday ornaments in honor or memory of those you're not able to see in person this year.
3. Focus on people, not on a specific date and time.
You may need to celebrate a couple days earlier or later than you would have liked. But don't get so locked into your traditions that you lose sight of the most important part: spending time together. With the need for social distancing, look for creative and meaningful ways to connect safely or consider celebrating virtually. Share memories with your family and friends. Memories can bring both laughter and tears. Both are OK.
4. Recognize the importance of food traditions.
Favorite foods can remind us of happy memories and are a great way to include a family member who is gone. Serving Grandpa's pie or Aunt Anne's stuffing can nourish your body and soul. Share in the tradition by cooking or baking these favorites together with your close circle of family or friends.
5. Honor your feelings.
Give yourself permission to feel sad, tired or anxious at some point during the holidays. You're only human, and that's OK. Take a break if your emotions are too intense. Focus on small things that bring you joy, such as a walk, phone call to a loved one, letter to a friend or favorite hobby.
Watch a video about dealing with loss through the holidays:
Get more resources on the COVID-19 pandemic, and read about 5 things to consider before participating in group gatherings.