Prepare Your Children for the Holiday Season and COVID
Keeping your loved ones safe from the COVID virus is hard enough when everyone stays at home.
The holiday season is a traditional time for gathering with family and friends, many of whom you may not see often during the rest of the year. You and your child may travel to visit them; they may travel to visit you and your child.
These others may or may not agree with or follow the COVID prevention guidelines.
All of this means COVID adds complexity when deciding where your children will spend each holiday, with whom, their transportation, and other issues.
Parenting plans typically spell out how holidays will be handled by separated and divorced parents. This blog post helps you adjust those holiday plans for health and safety during this pandemic.
Stay Up-to-Date on the Spread of COVID-19
Before making any decisions or plans, please read the following pages with guidelines and information from the government and health experts:
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “Holiday Celebrations” section.
- New York State: “Protect Yourself and Your Family from Coronavirus (COVID-19)“
- Find the health department for any US state if you are considering going outside of New York.
Adjust Your Holiday Plans for Safety from COVID
- Review the comprehensive CDC site for the latest information and guidelines.
- Find relevant COVID statistics to get fact-based assessments of risk levels.
- Discuss this information with the other parent and your respective families as you make your decisions for celebrating during this holiday season.
Going Out-of-State? Hosting Out-of-State Visitors?
Investigate these sources:
- The status of COVID spread in other states (a CDC-maintained page). This page allows you to select up to six states at a time. Living in NYS right now means most of our freedoms to live our lives have been restored, though it’s not guaranteed to stay that way. In states where the numbers of COVID cases and deaths are rising, shutdowns and other strategies are increasing to try to contain the spread.
- Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic. As this CDC site says, the best strategy is to stay home. If you must travel, use their checklist to consider the risks.
- For NYS Residents: Is the state you want to visit or where your visitors are coming from on the NYS quarantine list? As of this post (October 2020), the list contains 38 states and US territories. If you or your child travels to any of those places, you must quarantine yourself for 14 days when you return home. (This restriction doesn’t apply to any state in which you stay less than 24 hours.) If you are flying this holiday season, you’ll be asked to fill out a NYS Traveler Health Form when you return to NYS. Not doing so may cost you a $2,000 fine.
How to Talk to Kids About “Different” Celebrations
Children can be very disappointed to learn that they can’t go trick-or-treating or that your family isn’t going to have its annual touch football game on Thanksgiving. But, a change in plans can also be a good opportunity to help them adapt, learn, and grow.
Make it clear that the holidays aren’t canceled—you’re just doing things differently this year.
Acknowledge any sadness, disappointment, or anger they feel. Avoid minimizing their emotions by saying things like, “It’s not a big deal.” To them, it is a big deal!
Make it clear that you’re going to do your best to make it the best holiday you can, given the circumstances. Ask them to join in the planning to come up with new activities they’ll enjoy.
Now, let’s take the holidays one at a time.
Halloween Under the Threat of COVID
The CDC has published a lot of helpful information, including activities with low, medium, and high levels of risk that are part of this holiday.
The CDC also published this cool map organized by counties across the country. It even has a version of it for those who are color blind. Hover on the county in which you live or where you will be celebrating.
That will show you a color indicating the level of COVID risk in that county. The colors range from green as minimal risk, then yellow, orange, and finally red as high risk. They describe specific activities and guidelines that work for that level of risk. For example, Monroe County NY is currently at the yellow risk level.
- Trick-or-Treating: Don’t hand out treats directly to children; avoid all direct contact. Instead set up a station with bagged treats. Wash your hands frequently, and always wear a mask. Note that Halloween masks do not qualify.
- Looking for safe and fun activities for children and adults? The CDC Halloween website offers great ideas.
Staying Thankful in a COVID Thanksgiving
The CDC has great ideas for celebrating this holiday safely. Here are examples.
Low Risk Activities to Enjoy
- Have a small dinner with only people who live in your household.
- Prepare traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.
Medium Risk Activities to Enjoy
- Have a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community, if weather permits. Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.
- Visit pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing.
High Risk Activities to AVOID
- Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving
- Participating or being a spectator at a crowded outdoor event such as a competition.
Hannukah, Christmas, New Year’s: More of the Same
The CDC site hasn’t yet specifically addressed these holidays, but most of the above advice still applies to them. There is also plenty of other good advice out there.
“10 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Christmas This Year”
Besides good ideas for gatherings, this article suggests using this time to:
- Try new holiday traditions.
- Wrap gifts in fabric instead of holiday paper.
- Have a cookie decorating party via Zoom.
- Volunteer from home.
- Draw names for gifts to reduce financial stress.
- Give practical gifts so you don’t spend money on something the recipient won’t use. Here are ideas for non-toy gifts for children of all ages.
Blogger Prairie Mommy makes it a priority to plan for holidays well ahead of time. This year that’s more important than ever to prevent disappointments. For example, if you want to get gaming consoles, they sold like crazy during the initial COVID days and may still have a shortage.
Even if your child’s school is not doing remote learning, usual holiday activities like concerts are not possible due to COVID. Other typical activities are very doable from home, such as craft-making sessions or gift exchanges.
Fun, Meaningful Holidays Are Possible
With information, planning, and family discussions, you can still achieve the enjoyment, peace, and connection this time of year brings.
I wish all of you and your loved ones a healthy, safe, and joyous holiday season.
- “Holidays, Your Divorce, and Your Children: Making It Work.” Though this was posted before the COVID pandemic, its information is still relevant for having the holidays work as well as possible for you, your spouse/ex, your children, and your extended families.
- “Center for Disease Control: Guidelines for 2020 Holiday Season“
For more divorce topics covered by BJ Mann: BJ Mann Site Content Index
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