Senior couple waving at iPad during Christmas

How to do Christmas without Grandma

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In this pandemic time, the safest way to celebrate the holidays is to stay home. Grandma and Grandpa shouldn’t come over, and we shouldn’t to go their place, either.

This is not going to be easy. But that doesn’t mean it can’t still be fun.

Time to think outside the box. Maybe even start with some new lyrics to the old song:

“Over the cellphone and through cyberspace

To Grandmother’s house we Zoom …”

Maintain family interactions

Next to staying safe from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the most important thing you can do is make sure to keep those multi-generational family ties strong.

“It’s important for children to have that interaction with their grandparents,” said Courtney Miller, BSN, project manager with OSF Behavioral Health Services. “And research shows time and again that spending time with grandchildren helps keep grandparents young.

”Across the world, cultures that interact with multiple generations see benefits to all parties.”

Create your virtual reality party

young girl with santa hat on sits on a couch holding a christmas present to a laptop screenFortunately, we have the means to maintain those relationships, even if we can’t be together in person.

Technology can help save the day.

If the most important part of your family tradition is watching each other open gifts, you can still do that, even if you’re in different countries. Just set up a virtual meeting – Zoom is just one of the platforms available – and then rip the wrapping paper. You’ll get to see Grandpa’s eyes dance over the new power tool and hear little Leo squeal with delight over his motorized dump truck.

If the big thing is telling stories over the family dinner, you can mount your tablets and tripods at one end of each table and still share that experience.

All in real time.

New traditions without technology

But every interaction doesn’t need to be on FaceTime or even Instagram. If your family tree branches are local and the weather is the least bit cooperative, you can still see each other and maintain physical distance.

Maybe this is the year to go big on outdoor decorations and stage a drive-in Christmas party in the yard.

And if geography is a problem, or livestream technology is not your thing, maybe you can reimagine time-honored traditions.

“If baking cookies with Grandma is a tradition, take pictures or videos of the grandkids baking cookies and make a photo album. Then send that to Grandma and have her do the same thing. Then you can call and talk about the experience,” Courtney said.

Make the most of what we have

Still, we have to cope with the fact that the holidays are going to be different. That’s not as easy as putting on a Santa cap and belting out, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

It’s important to understand that everyone will be affected and react in their own way – including ourselves.

“There’s going to be a void,” Courtney said. “We don’t replace that void, we grieve it. We need to be able to express that. It’s OK to not love this situation. But we can still make the most of it and be grateful in it.

“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘We can shower in our grief, but we don’t bathe in it.’ We have to be able to move through it. This is a process. It’s OK to have these emotions, but we need to talk about them and listen and understand. The important thing is, don’t isolate and don’t withdraw.”

A good time to give back

Although we may have lost some holiday traditions, this is a temporary situation. We can look forward to next year and be grateful for what we still have.

Maybe this is a good year to take time that used to go toward preparing the family bash and devote it to service.

“See if there is a way you can memorialize this Christmas season and give back,” Courtney said. “Maybe you can make masks for people. Or send letters to people serving overseas. This is a good time to be aware there are always people who are less fortunate than we are, and we can move past this.”

About Author: Kirk Wessler

Kirk Wessler started work as a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare in January 2019. A Peoria native and graduate of Bradley University, he previously worked for newspapers in Missouri, Texas and most recently at the Peoria Journal Star.

Kirk and his wife, MaryFrances, have five sons, four daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren. He’s on a quest to master playing guitar and golf. He also loves to travel, especially driving back roads.

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Categories: COVID-19, Mental Health