How To Manage Your Kids’ Holiday Season Expectations This Year

How to make things special while staying realistic... during a pandemic.

grandmother and mother cooking with child in santa hat getty

The holiday season is usually a time for family get-togethers and sharing your home with people you might not have seen all year.

Unfortunately, with the coronavirus pandemic responsible for the death of over 230,000 Americans and another possible increase in cases as flu season takes hold, those traditions are forced to change.

There is no real way around it, your kids are aware that this year is different from any other year in so many ways.


School might be online, in person, or may have become homeschooling. ​Playing with friends is limited or not happening at all. Extracurricular activities might be online or canceled, including sports.

You don’t go out as much (or at all) to movies and restaurants or places of amusement. You don’t go shopping if you can help it.

 Along with these changes comes masks and a whole lot of new experiences.

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Kids are wondering what to expect from the holiday season this year.

With so many changes in their routines, children are apt to be wondering about the upcoming holiday season and what it means for them.

Whatever holidays you celebrate at home, it’s unlikely to happen in exactly the same way as other years. Children are often creatures of habit, so they will have questions.

Be honest and clear with your children, but never blunt or cruel. 

The best advice is to be honest and clear with your children about what to expect for the holiday season. Give them choices wherever possible, because things will be different this year.

Do not tell your children bluntly that the holidays have been canceled. They haven’t.


The calendar will happen, regardless of quarantine, the coronavirus, or weather.

Talk about the changes with holiday fun in mind.

Explain that things will be different over the holidays, but that you will have fun anyway.

Depending on their age and maturity, discuss the necessary changes (no visit to a mall Santa, for instance) and share your ideas on what you can do, instead.

Get their input as much as possible. This is really important, because you don’t necessarily know which part of the holiday celebrations is most meaningful to each child.

My grandsons are 11 and seven, both bright and interesting guys with definite opinions.

I found out which parts of the Thanksgiving meal I normally prepare that are most special to each of them. I promised that, however we end up celebrating, those items will be on the menu.


To be clear, there is no promise about who will be there, or even if it will be at my house, or if I will be dropping it off at theirs. I only make promises I can keep. Stuffing and pie seem like safe promises, though.

RELATED: COVID Thanksgiving Ideas: 14 Ways To Celebrate Safely This Year

Create new holiday season traditions and treats.

If the "Elf on a Shelf" visits this year, put a mask on him! Maybe a new family board game (which could be delivered by Santa or brought by the Elf) to be played when they would normally be visiting relatives.


This could become a cherished tradition in later years.

Delve into your family’s heritage and celebrate older traditions, especially those that are home-based. Maybe a traditional cookie or other recipes can once again be enjoyed.

My grandchildren’s heritage is Scottish, English, and Jewish. We always have Chanukkah with latkes and dreidels, but this year, assuming we can be together, I want to try my hand (with them) at sufganiyot or jelly donuts.

Christmas will definitely involve gifts, special treats, and a holiday meal. Just like Thanksgiving, you don’t know the details yet.

Find teachable moments this holiday season.

Again, you'll be talking with the children about the most special celebrations for them to determine how to make their holiday fun and engaging despite the looming threat of coronavirus.


If you find yourself quarantined and at home during the winter break, try to think of it as an opportunity and teach your children to do the same.

Maybe you can make decorations from a kit or from scratch. Research customs from bygone times and try them on for size.

Whatever you do, make the holidays fun and interesting.

Proceed with a sense of occasion. This year, maybe more than at any time in our lives, we all need a celebration, fun, or something special for the holiday season.

We’ve had enough boredom to last us a while, so make the most of whatever you choose!

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Nancie Barwick is a clinical hypnotherapist, author, speaker, and medical intuitive. For more information on her services, visit her website.