The year 2020 continues to put us to the test. If it was already challenging find things for children and young people to occupy their time during the Christmas holidays, or any other school rest period, this year, in semi-confinement mode, full of restrictions to which are added cautions, uncertainties and all the normal fears, everything seems more complex and overwhelming. Mainly because by now we’ve already experienced several months of confinement, of fearful and hesitant new beginnings and of –hereto unimaginable – impositions on social distance, which feed the fear of the other and of contagion and, with this, reduce and limit the possibilities of happiness, always the hardest-won among affections.
Contrary to previous years, the preparation for the biggest family celebration seems compromised and we approach it timidly. Spending is reined in due to uncertainties about possible restrictions on movement, and the painful management of affections begins, depending on the people who, in fact, we will be able to be with in this holiday season. Actually, we are managing the impossible. But human beings are resilient and fruitful in resources, and their ability to adapt is infinite. Just one visit to social networks and you can see that Christmas has arrived at everyone’s house much earlier, with decorations in advance to be displayed inside and outside the house, in a clear message that there are things that we will not let be taken away, even if we have to rethink them, from top to bottom.
We are already more adapted to teleworking, online shopping, meetings via zoom, Skype or any other virtual room, familiar with the possibility of telelearning, accustomed to the new hygiene and socialization protocols. We are already beginning to know how to face the challenges with greater shrewdness, knowing that, above all, the safety and health of each and every one must be preserved. Time may have made the absence of touch, hugs and physical closeness painful, even more so at the ages where play and the discovery of the world and the other impose themselves as priorities, but the experience has strengthened creativity and ingenuity, even from parents who are increasingly managing more tasks in a space formerly dedicated only to family and domestic affairs. However, all help is always welcome, so we will provide you with almost a manual of good procedures, in order to deal with the situation and keep the spirit up this vacation, even if this turns out to be the most bizarre of all Christmases. Above all, keep in mind that there are always reasons to celebrate, you just need to learn how to recognize and appreciate them.
Yes, it is not easy to think about Christmas or try to plan it when everything we love most this season – being with the family, singing, playing, hugging, kissing … – may not come true. In this sense, it is important to talk about the subject now, before false expectations are created. If you notice that the children and young people in the family are having increased difficulties and are anxious about how everything will go, or are struggling to adapt to the situation, give them the floor. Let them express their yearnings and fears and let them know that you understand them and that we are all on the same level of disappointment and expectation. Go back to explaining the reasons that require radical changes and remind them that the greatest proof of love in these times of pandemic is knowing how to respect and preserve everyone’s health, despite the feelings of emotional deprivation and sadness that may affect us.
Do not leave the youngest out of the plans for the holiday season. It’s important to talk with the family and, above all, develop a ‘party programme’ with creative and festive activities, to which everyone can contribute, open to everyone’s participation and in which young people feel useful.
Regardless of the restrictions that may be imposed or lifted, it is certain that this will be a different Christmas. The risk of contagion remains high and the red lines show that it is useless to expect miracles, even from science.
The key is to value everything they can do and not regret everything that will be banned. Within what you can do underline which habitual seasonal rituals have the greatest meaning for the family and which you would like to keep. Once identified, try to be creative together and think about how these traditions can be realized this year, even if in a completely different way than usual. You may end up in a lively virtual cooking session, with grandmothers explaining how to prepare the favourite dish or desserts of the season; in the usual Christmas choir with all the cousins, even if it’s through Zoom or FaceTime; decorating the Christmas tree simultaneously with family members who live far away; simulating the planned car trip to the uncle and aunt’s house; dining together with the whole family in an online dining room… It’s not the same, that’s true, but it doesn’t have to be bad. Above all, keep your ties, even at a distance, and value everyone’s safety.
This is a homework task in which the whole family that usually meets at Christmas must participate. Create new traditions, invent ways to ‘get together’ and have fun. Innovate and get out of the box.
– Spread small souvenirs and notes around the city, in secret places known to all, which can only be accessed with coordinates that test the collective and affective memory: the place where father proposed to mother, the garden bench where grandma fell asleep… look for them in safety, at times when it is allowed, without putting your health at risk, or breaking the government’s emergency recommendations.
– Send gifts by mail in advance and surprise those you won’t be able to be with on Christmas night or morning.
– Make Christmas ornaments dedicated to the whole family.
– Share home videos.
– Write a fun song about the whole new situation, or an emotional poem explaining everything you feel and share it with everyone. Better yet, do it in different voices, passing verses to each other to complete it.
– Organize a distance contest between family and friends in which people’s talents are tested.
– Why not start a collective diary for future memory, when everything is back to ‘normal’?
– Imagine that each of your absent family members is on vacation in an exotic location and dress up accordingly. At a set hour, show up online, as along with the decorations alluding to the chosen ‘destination’.
– Young people are tech savvy, let them organize a family gathering online.
Above all, focus on the positive aspects. With a little imagination and everything discussed in advance, this may even prove to be an imaginative and fun Christmas vacation.
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