The upcoming holiday season is typically filled with family gatherings and engaging in activities you can only do during this one time of year. For children, that means seeing grandparents and extended family members, visiting Santa Claus and attending a community event such as a tree lighting ceremony. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic and continued social distancing efforts, this holiday season will look a little different. Extended family members are encouraged not to gather, Santa Claus will be seen from a distance, and many events are canceled. So, how can we help children understand these changes while still enjoying the holiday season? Beth Trammell, a licensed psychologist, parenting researcher and associate professor of psychology at Indiana University East, says there is no doubt this holiday season is going to be a tough one for many families, but she says there are little things we can do to help our youngest family members enjoy the holiday season while staying safe. First, Trammell says do not underestimate the impact of pandemic fatigue. Many Americans are emotionally and physically tired and that includes children. Trammell says keep in mind that negative behaviors are often the result of, and indicative of, kids' level of overwhelming fatigue. Additionally, children might feel grief or loss over the missing out on traditions, possibly leading them to negatively react, which might look like overreacting in an adult’s mind. Trammell says have patience and try to listen intently and empathize, rather than simply see it as a child being dramatic or overreacting. Trammell says instead of focusing on what will not happen this year, parents should keep the focus on what can happen. Create new traditions and make the activities you can do together special. Approach the holidays with excitement and a positive outlook, she says, and your children will follow your lead. In the end, Trammell says, parents’ presence will always matter more than the things we buy for kids. Memories and even new COVID traditions can help minimize the struggle of missing certain things this holiday season, Trammell says. Families should document new traditions —with a photo book or scrapbook or storybook — so kids can remember this COVID-19 holiday season happily.
One tradition that is on most people’s holiday list of things to do is shopping. But as COVID-19 cases across the country surge, public health experts are pleading with people to stay home as much as possible. That includes avoiding in-person holiday shopping, which has the potential to further overwhelm contact tracers and hospitals. Shandy Dearth, of the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, says there's always an increased risk of exposure when being indoors with other people. Contact tracing can be especially difficult when someone who is COVID-19 positive has visited a high-traffic public place. A close contact is being within 6 feet of someone for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period. Dearth says that right now, transmission is high enough that you should just assume if you're going out you are being exposed. Luckily, there's no need to shop in person to take advantage of holiday sales. John Talbott, at the IU Kelley School of Business, says the largest difference compared to past shopping seasons will be the number of sales taking place digitally. Many retailers have already experienced a growth in e-commerce during the pandemic and responded by adjusting their shopping experiences. Curbside pickup for online orders, for example, has become a huge part of some retailers' business. The shift in where sales are taking place means many retailers don't have to limit deals to the times their physical stores are open. Many are spreading Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions out from now through December, rather than limiting sales to a few days. Talbott says that gives consumers more opportunities to shop around and find gifts at the best price. But Talbott suggests those looking for a popular item buy it as soon as possible as this year, supply chains for many retailers have been disrupted, he says. When it's gone, it's gone.