COVID Christmas: Tips to support your children during the pandemic holiday season
OTTAWA -- While Christmas, Hanukkah and the holiday break will be different for children this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an Ottawa parenting consultant recommends parents focus on the positive aspects ahead this holiday season.
Ottawa Public Health and other health units in eastern Ontario are recommending you celebrate the holidays only with those in your household, plus one or two essential supports if needed.
"We saw families get very creative when it came to finding new traditions for Thanksgiving, Halloween and Diwali," said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health in a statement on Friday. "We're asking you to do the same for Hanukkah, the Solstice, Christmas and Kwanzaa."
Success in Steps parent consultant and behaviour coach Sylvia Corzato says it's important for parents to explain to their children that it's okay to be disappointed that Christmas, Hanukkah and the holidays may be different this year.
"Truthfully, you can't avoid the disappointment. The disappointment is natural and I think we need to address it in a very empathetic and connective way," Corzato tells CTVNewsOttawa.ca, noting many parents have said they do not know how to prepare their kids for the COVID holidays.
"I would actually recommend that it is presented in a different format. When we present it in a format with 'Christmas is going to look different,' we're taking it more from a negative perspective and the kids are expecting or anticipating things to be like, 'oh great, here we go. A bunch of different things that we're not going to be able to do,'" said Corzato, adding children have faced a lot of new normal this year due to COVID-19.
"While it's completely understandable why we would take that approach, I would actually encourage parents to do the reverse, 'Hey, Christmas is coming up, what are you looking forward to?' So focusing on the positive."
Parent consultant and behaviour coach Sylvia Corzato of Success in Steps discusses four tips to support your child during a pandemic Christmas with CTVNewsOttawa.ca
WHAT IS YOUR CHILD LOOKING FORWARD TO OVER THE HOLIDAYS
"Ask them, 'What are you looking forward to?" said Corzato.
For younger kids, Corzato tells CTVNewsOttawa.ca parents may have them draw what they are looking forward to doing over the holidays. "Allowing the kids to share what they are looking forward to. Often we are going to be very surprised at what traditions our kids are looking forward to," said Corzato.
For older kids, Corzato recommends having a conversation with them in a natural setting and asking, "Christmas is coming up, what are you looking forward to?"
ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT THEY WILL AND WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DO DURING A COVID-19 HOLIDAY SEASON
Once you have identified what your child is looking forward to for Christmas and the holidays, Corzato says you can discuss what will be possible to do while respecting the COVID-19 guidelines.
"It's best to acknowledge what you can and cannot do, but in a positive format," said Corzato.
Corzato says that once you have the conversation with your children, you can say 'you know what, I am so happy to hear what you're looking forward to.'"
"So this year, we can bake cookies. You know what, unfortunately this year we will not be able to do our big family gathering, I was looking forward to that to but unfortunately, that is not going to be able to happen. You know what, we can do that next year or we can do a family gathering once restrictions have been lifted."
Corzato says have an honest conversation with your children about the holidays.
"I think that clear expectations of what we can and cannot do this Christmas is really going to help prepare your child. It's also going to leave less disappointment when they know in advance," said Corzato.
"Are kids going to be upset? Absolutely! Is it okay for them to be upset? 100 per cent. This is not a time where we want to brush their feelings aside. This is a time we want to connect and say, 'I hear you; I know that you're upset, I am upset to. But these circumstances are out of control, and to keep everybody safe we need to follow these rules.'"
EMPATHIZE AND CONNECT
"I would encourage you not to diminish their feelings, instead allow them to share what they're feeling. It's an amazing opportunity to empathize and connect with them, and to really hear where they're coming from," Corzato tells CTVNewsOttawa.ca about responding to the emotional rollercoaster that may happen over the holiday season.
"Once we understand where they're feeling and they've had an opportunity to let out all those emotions and to address them, then I would like for us to take a step and to redirect that."
WHAT WE FOCUS ON GROWS – STAY ON TASK WITH WHAT YOU WILL DO THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
"What we focus on is what grows. So, after our child has that emotional rollercoaster and whether they're crying, they're sad, they're taking time for themselves to self-regulate, it's not like they're not going to bring it up again," said Corzato.
"Acknowledge it, and then focus on what you can do. Once we have empathize and connected on what they're going to be missing, moving forward I'm encouraging parents to focus on what they can do and redirect your attention to all the beautiful things that can still happen."
Corzato notes while your children may be upset they cannot visit their grandparents or other family members, tell them, "I'm really looking forward to that video chat that we're going to be doing with them on Christmas Day."
The parent consultant and behaviour coach recommends creating a vision board with your children that focuses on things you will do over the holiday season.
Corzato says it is important to acknowledge how you are children will be feeling, but redirecting it to what you will do instead.
"If we focus on what we can still do and bring joy to that, then we can still make this very magical."