How you can help your kids manage holiday disappointment amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 8:38 AM, Dec 01, 2020

People around the country are managing sadness and disappointment this holiday season as they make the tough decision not to see family due to coronavirus precautions.

2020 has been rough, and as most of the country experiences a rise in COVID-19 cases and a potential second shutdown, experts say it's okay to be disappointed.

"We all are feeling sad and it's important to recognize it, deal with it and express it, but also we need to realize we'll all get through this, and we have to put the safety of others before our own needs and there are other ways to connect," said Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a pediatric mental health expert.

Capanna-Hodge sees kids of all ages in her Connecticut-based practice and works with parents, teaching them to reduce and reverse mental health issues in children without a prescription.

"We do that by calming and regulating the nervous system with brain-based therapy, and then we come in with teaching. which is psychotherapy," Capanna-Hodge said. "It's really a very effective way to get unstuck when you have an issue like ADHD or autism."

She says children with ADHD and autism may have be having more difficulties amid the pandemic than others.

"What we've seen during the pandemic is an exacerbation of pre-existing conditions, and some kids for the first time are showing signs of panic, loneliness, depression and anxiety," Capanna-Hodge said. "Certainly, we're seeing parents who are extremely overwhelmed."

Those same overwhelmed parents, hoping for holiday togetherness, are now having to explain to their children why they have to have a quieter than usual holiday gathering.

Capanna-Hodge has three tips for parents to do just that.

1. Have a developmentally-appropriate conversation

2. Validate feelings
"You want to listen and say statements like, 'I hear you' You don't want to dismiss how a kid feels if they're crying, you don't want to say, 'I feel that way too.' You'll have to deal with it. And I know all parents say that, but we want to be there and listen."

3. Find alternative ways to keep family traditions alive
"We came up with a box full of all the ingredients that Nona would need to make thier special treats, and then us having that same box and doing it via zoom and still preserving that tradition because that's important to us." She also recommends allowing children to play or complete activities on their own — but not force converse with relatives — while parents record the call.

Lastly, Capanna-Hodge says parents should use this time to help kids learn about disappointment.

"Teach kids about having a different mindset about stress and disappointment," she said. "This is a tough time, and we have to learn to build those coping skills."