If you are a parent following the news about the Omicron variant, it’s very likely you’re feeling uneasy and anxious. You may be wondering what this news means for you, your children, and for your family, and your children will probably have lots of questions too.
The holiday season is always full of a change in routines but this year, as we wait to learn more about the Omicron variant children are dealing with more uncertainty than usual.
Whether you’re rethinking travel plans, opting for a smaller family gathering, or dealing with a family member’s Omicron exposure right before the big day, you may be wondering how to help your child cope with changing plans.
Children take their lead from you so make sure you are prepared for their questions & appear calm as that will give your child a sense of normality & security.
Prepare some answers in advance.
As we begin to prepare for Christmas & the New Year it’s a good opportunity to open up conversations to actively reflect on the last 12 months with your children, no matter how old they are, and check in on how they are coping & what they’ve picked up from friends or the News.
Sometimes kids get the wrong end of the stick, misunderstand or receive fake information on social media.
Here are some ideas for ages & stages:
0-3 years old: Focus on quality time together.
It’s okay to keep things very simple for children this age in terms of celebrations and explanations.
4-6 years old: Create a new family tradition.
Look for an opportunity to be positive despite the uncertainty.
Sing Christmas songs in the kitchen using the pepper mill as a mike! Crank up Mariah Carey or Slade & pop on your Christmas jumper and dance around the kitchen to have some fun & laughter together – make some fun memories that will last a lifetime ?
Don’t punish your kids for having a negative reaction to holiday changes this year. Tell them that it’s okay to feel sad, disappointed or angry. Listen to their ‘big’ emotions to help them feel heard & understood. It’s good for their mental health & wellbeing.
Look for the positive in your circumstances, as you can always find it if you look for it, and reframe situations. See it as an opportunity to ‘talk & teach’ your kids about positive self-talk. That means for example , “Since we won’t be travelling this year we get extra time to play at home & have lots of lie ins!’
Develop an ‘attitude of gratitude’ & link it to something your kids do every night before bed, like brushing their teeth. Play the ‘I’m Grateful for ….’ Game
The more you do it the better everyone feels & it becomes a lovely habit.
6-12 years old: Help your child cope with holiday disappointments – it develops resilience for the future.
At this age, your child understands the precautions that need to be taken due to Omicron.
So acknowledge & validate their feelings of disappointment and sadness about changes to their holiday traditions & expectations try : ‘It’s OK to feel angry, frustrated or sad but let’s make the best of it & have fun playing together & watching Christmas films eating chocolate in our pjs !’
Remember that helping children overcome disappointment helps them to build resiliency in life as they are learning to be flexible.
Perhaps you could ask them for their ideas about how to make this Christmas special. Kids love to be asked & involved in family life & it builds the ‘WE’ family team spirit & it also develops their self esteem.
13-18 years old: Ask, listen and be guided by your teen.
Ask your teen how they are feeling. Don’t rush in to rescue or judge just listen. It builds respect, trust & connection.
Let them know you are there if they need to talk.
Teens like to open up in their own time, not always when you want to talk! So be open & ready to listen & don’t try to solve the problem for them.
Offer perspective on the situation by looking at the big picture.
Be a listening ear & a guiding hand.
This may not be the Christmas you’d planned or wanted, particularly as last year we were in lockdown but you can still have fun & enjoy the time together
Kids love the excitement of Christmas and the good news is that they are less fixed in their expectations of what makes it special. So let go of your expectations & your traditions of how it ‘should be’ and relax, have fun & just go with the flow.