As a therapist who specializes in helping moms, I hear day in and day out about the unique personal struggles EVERY kind of mom is experiencing in the time of COVID-19. We are struggling to decide who to spend the holidays with or maybe making the gut-wrenching decision to not spend time with family and friends at all. We are trying to find ways to keep up our kiddos’ spirits when we struggle to find ways to keep up our own holiday cheer.

Here are some creative ways that stressed out moms like you are trying to keep the holidays special.  

Go With the Flow

This seems to be the mantra for 2020 after social distancing. This year all of us have had to learn how to be flexible, and for the holidays, it won’t be any different. Some ways to continue to be COVID safe and holiday flexible include:

  • Taking an indoor gathering outdoors by holding small outdoor holiday get-togethers (if you can). Some of my mom clients in Minnesota are having 1-year-old birthday parties outside in snowy weather with outdoor patio heaters. 
  • Wearing a holiday-themed mask to your social-distancing gathering. I’m sure it will go nicely with your ugly sweater.
  • Preparing yourself and kiddos for plans to change at the last minute. Change is hard and 2020 has taught us this lesson. Continue to have conversations with your kiddos about how nothing this year is set in stone. 
  • Attending virtual faith services or online prayer groups. A lot of families have already been doing this, but if you normally get up for morning church in your PJs while you Zoom in, then consider changing it up by putting on your best holiday attire for these services. 
  • Making Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners virtual events. Screen fatigue is the real deal, but if the only way you can get together with the extended family is through Google Meets, find a way to make the event fun.  

RELATED: Dear Holiday Season, We Need You This Year More Than Ever

Create New Traditions

Moms are the best at being ingenious. I mean, look at the candy shoots for trick-or-treating that were hot this past Halloween. Now is the time to whip out our creativity and come up with new holiday traditions. Consider: 

  • Ordering takeout instead of cooking the whole holiday meal to mix it up for the holidays. 
  • Creating a new tradition at mealtime by adding something special. For Easter this past year, my 6-year-old decided we would have an Easter tea party since we couldn’t get together with family and friends. It’s now our new Easter tradition. 
  • Doing a makeover on an old tradition. When I was little, we would drive around and look at holiday lights. Now with my kiddos, we bring along sugar cookies and hot chocolate and they get to drop off a big candy cane to the house they think is the winner with the best lights. 

Acknowledge Grief and Loss

The holidays are often about surrounding yourself with family and friends. When you’re not able to be with them, either because they passed away or because of the current COVID-19 circumstances, a lot of grief and loss could bubble up to the surface this holiday season. Ways to acknowledge grief and loss include:

  • Finding a special way to remember the loss of a loved one, including setting a seat at the table for them, lighting a candle, or hanging up their stocking. We hang up a stocking for my stillborn daughter. I know moms who set a place at the table for others they have lost. 
  • Talking about any loved ones you might have lost due to COVID-19 and how this impacts your holiday season as well as your future moving forward.
  • Sharing your feelings of grief that have occurred due to the changes COVID-19 has brought and the limitations it has put on holiday gatherings and traditions is an important way for your family to know it’s OK to talk about their hard feelings, too.

RELATED: The Holidays Are Different After Child Loss

Make it Fun and Consistent For the Kids

Right now as a mom all I am craving is consistency, and I know from working with other moms they and their kiddos are craving it too. Try to hold onto the traditions that you can by:

  • Maintaining holiday traditions that are focused around you and your family, including continuing and making a bigger deal out of the Advent calendar, lighting the menorah, or baking big meals.
  • Sending silly holiday cards. If you already send holiday cards, consider sending a great themed one to acknowledge the craziness that is 2020. 
  • Be a new kind of Secret Snowflake and drop off a surprise batch of cookies or a bag of candy to your neighbors and friends. There was a great version of this going around for Halloween with, “You Got Booed.” Let’s keep it up for the rest of the holidays. 

Make it Easy on Yourself as a Parent

Let’s be real, we moms put the magic in all the holiday seasons. We as moms carry the mental load of magical holiday making. Since it’s been a crazy year, let’s consider letting up on how magical we need to make the holidays by giving thanks to ourselves by taking time out for us by:

  • Giving ourselves permission to take all the breaks we need to recharge our batteries so we can get back to bringing about holiday cheer. 
  • Scheduling more downtime by saying no to the added activities we really don’t want to do, like volunteering for our kiddos’ online school holiday party.
  • Moving up bedtimes for the kiddos. It’s the only cool thing about daylight savings time. When the sun goes down the kiddos can too. 
  • Lowering your expectations. It’s probably the most important thing we can do for ourselves this holiday season. The one space we still might have some control over is our brain, and if we can be kind in our mind to ourselves by lowering what we expect from ourselves, our kiddos, and family and friends, then we just might make this COVID holiday season a little easier for everyone.

RELATED: In the Chaos of This Holiday Season, Can We Just…Stop?

Originally published on the author’s blog

Lindsey Henke

Lindsey Henke is the founder and Executive Director of Pregnancy After Loss Support, writer, clinical social worker, wife, and most importantly a mother to two beautiful daughters (one too beautiful for earth) and one sweet-cheeked baby boy.