COVID-19: Coping with changes to your family’s holiday traditions


COVID-19: Coping with changes to your family’s holiday traditions

Like so many other aspects of life, holiday traditions will undoubtedly be affected this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Historically, many people celebrate the holidays in close quarters with loved ones. However, some of those plans may change as people take precautions to help protect themselves and loved ones from COVID-19.
“People might find themselves feeling disappointed or sad they can’t celebrate the holidays like they typically do,” says Heather Partridge, a behavioral health counselor at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road in Myrtle Beach. “But it’s important to try to reframe this thought and see change as an opportunity to start a new tradition or connect with loved ones in a different way.”

Building bonds

One of the reasons the holidays are so important for many people is because they provide an opportunity to strengthen our bonds with family and friends. If that opportunity is lost, it can lead to feelings of isolation and depression.
“It is important to have things to look forward to, and holiday traditions are often an example of that,” Partridge says. “Spending time with loved ones give us a break from daily stressors such as work and school and allows us to connect with others.”

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If you decide that attending an in-person gathering isn’t a good option for you or your family, it’s important to cope with your emotions and the emotions of your family members and friends, who may also be disappointed.
“It’s always a good idea to express how you are feeling rather than try to shy away from the discussion,” Partridge says. “By making the difficulty of your decision clear, you can help both yourself and your loves ones feel better about the outcome.”
Similarly, Partridge says, be empathetic if a loved one decides not to attend your annual event or tradition.
“These are challenging times, and people have to make difficult decisions based upon their own unique circumstances,” she says. “Although you may be disappointed with a loved one’s decision, try to offer support and encouragement rather than change their mind or question their thought process.”


Even if your normal routines are interrupted, there are great ways to celebrate the holidays. Here are some ideas:

  • Video chat with friends or loved ones.
  • Exchange gifts through the mail.
  • Volunteer your time for a good cause.
  • Organize a virtual dinner.
  • Set aside more time with your immediate family – consider dedicating an event to watch a movie or sporting event together.
  • Prepare traditional family recipes for family and neighbors and deliver the food to their porch or doorstep.

“If you are usually very busy during the holidays, take advantage of this opportunity to slow down and get some much-needed rest,” Partridge adds.
If your holiday plans deviate from the past this year, it’s important to keep in mind that children may have a more difficult time than adults understanding the rationale.
“Be honest in explaining your reasoning and help them see this as an opportunity to connect with loved ones in a new way or to find new ways to celebrate,” Partridge suggests. “Children can create gifts or cards for loved ones and mail them.”
If you are unsure about how to approach the holidays, consider taking a few minutes to read the CDC’s guidance about COVID-19 risk during the holidays. The agency explains key factors to consider if you are weighing whether to attend an in-person event.

Meet the Expert

Heather Partridge

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