Many holiday traditions have been altered or even pushed to the side this year due to the novel coronavirus, which can make it difficult for children – especially those who may not grasp the reasons why – to cope with the changes. Allowing your children space to be upset is one step that can help them adjust to the changes, an expert said.
“I think there could be a conversation with kids at different ages about the things we are missing out on right now and what opportunities there are to learn or practice something new,” Dr. Parker Huston, pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told Fox News. “Certainly allow them the space to be upset and frustrated about their experience. Make sure the ‘blame’ is directed in the right direction, that we all wish that this new virus wasn’t impacting us and that there was a clear and effective way to manage it better.”
Huston, who also recommended using the circumstances to help your child become a creative problem solver, said it could be a good time to focus on giving this year, like participating in community projects, donating goods to charity and increasing acts of kindness and gratitude.
“There will undoubtedly be long-term impacts of the changes we have all experienced (and will continue to experience) as a result of the pandemic, but not all of the impact is necessarily negative,” Huston said. “Parents, teachers and others who work with children have a lot of say in how resilient children are in the face of these challenges.”
Another key point for parents, Huston said, is allowing yourself to parent differently and change previous expectations.
“We are expecting our children to be flexible and change their daily expectations and we should do the same,” Huston said. “It’s OK to allow a little more free time, screen time or an extra treat from time to time.”
But consistency in other areas, like sleep times, eating and behavioral expectations, can help keep kids stay balanced, Maintaining a routine with healthy meals and snacks is also important for consistency. Tackling boredom by steering them in creative directions can also help keep screen time within healthy limits.
Including children in virtual celebrations and getting them involved in decorating can also help them stay in the holiday spirit despite some of the changes in their routines. Embracing the changes instead of fighting them can also help.
“I think instead of focusing on when things will return to a previous normal, we should be talking about adapting to the changes that come our way,” Huston said. “It is an opportunity to teach them that change is constant and being adaptable to our environment is a great skill to have for success in life. We can certainly reassure them that certain things will eventually return to a more normal state, like being able to socialize, go to school in-person consistently, and do all of our favorite extracurricular activities.”