Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Q&A: How to help kids cope with breaking holiday traditions this year

How do we adjust when we must disrupt or change our traditions, and help our families and children understand why these changes are happening?

The holidays will look much different this year.
The holidays will look much different this year.Read moreiStock

Holiday traditions let us honor our family members and friends from the past. So how do we adjust when we must disrupt or change our traditions, and help our families and children understand why these changes are happening?

Though the pandemic may be a primary reason for changing your family rituals this year, it may not be the only reason. Each year, many families deal with the loss of old traditions and the ushering in of new ones for a variety of reasons including divorce, military deployment, death, etc.

To help support children, families and ourselves this holiday season, is it important to acknowledge the loss and emotions of sadness. Often we tend to shy away from feelings of grief by telling ourselves “it’s no big deal” or trying to immediately solve the problem for our children, in an effort to take away their grief. Feeling the emotions of grief and acknowledging the loss is an essential first step to moving forward.

After feeling the emotions of loss, try to come together as a family to reframe this new holiday season with excitement. Ask yourselves what your favorite part of the holiday season is, or what you will miss most this year, and find ways to creatively honor those traditions. Be sure to include your children in the brainstorming process of trying to replicate that. Incorporate aspects of the traditions that bring joy and foster connection, even if you must connect with loved ones from afar.

Since we are all craving predictability in this time of unprecedented change, plan the holidays out as much as possible so you and your kids know what to expect.

The holidays, while joyful, can be a source of added stress even when not in the midst of a pandemic. Try to focus on the positive aspects of enjoying a more low-key holiday. Perhaps you begrudgingly spent a holiday a certain way to appease certain family members. This can be a time to embrace the freedom that may come with spending the holiday in a way that you have personally designed.

While family traditions are essential to our identity, it’s important to empower ourselves to create new traditions and memories. Traditions by definition are routine and the same, but there is room for flexibility. Remember that the importance of traditions and the holidays are the connection and joy shared by family.

Jessica Kendorski is an associate professor and chair of the department of school psychology at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.