Covid at Christmas: Five ways to make Christmas Day special for your children regardless of the pandemic

A parenting expert has suggested ways that would make Christmas fun for children in spite of the pandemic.

A parenting expert suggests ways to still make Christmas fun in spite of Omicron. (Pic credit: PA)
A parenting expert suggests ways to still make Christmas fun in spite of Omicron. (Pic credit: PA)

With the rise of Omicron cases, people are naturally taking a more cautious approach to socialising with family and friends this year.

If you have suddenly changed the event from hosting a big celebration with family and friends to just your immediate family, you may be concerned about how these change of plans could impact your children.

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Parenting expert and author of 100 Ways Your Child Can Learn Through Play, Georgina Durrant, said: “Children thrive on routines and consistency, and when plans change last minute, they can often find it difficult.

However, she assures that how they react to these changes can differ depending on their age.

“[Younger children] may not be able to understand fully the reasons for the change. They are also less likely to be able to see it from someone else’s viewpoint, not through any fault of their own, which makes it tougher.”

While older children may struggle because they are “more aware of the sacrifices they have already made over the last year-and-a-half-plus, and feel the injustice of it all,” she added.

But that doesn’t mean Christmas Day needs to be all doom and gloom as Ms Durrant said: “I think we’ve all discovered over the pandemic just how amazing children are in difficult situations. They often rise to the challenge and show us a thing or two about adapting.”

According to Ms Durrant, here is how to tackle a last-minute change in Christmas plans for your family, as well as some ideas for still making it special and fun.

1. Talk to your children about what’s happening

Firstly, have a chat with your children about why your Christmas plans have changed.

“What’s key to helping them through it is honesty and giving them some control over the situation,” she said.

“Also, being there to listen to their frustration and letting them know it’s completely understandable to feel that way.”

This doesn’t mean you need to go into detail about the pandemic with your young children, just explain openly and simply in a way that they will understand and won’t scare them that the plans are changing to keep us all safe.

2. Ask them what they want to do

Even though Christmas might look slightly different, let them feel involved in the planning. To allow children to choose what to do as a family, will help give them a sense of control over the uncertain situation.

“For younger children, you could simply give them two options for the change in plan. For example, ‘we can’t do the party anymore but would you like to do X or Y?’,” Ms Durrant said.

“For teens, it may be that you explain a bit more about the situation and ask them for their opinion on what you should do as a family. Show them that you are fully listening and taking on board their thoughts and opinions.”

3. Get children involved with the cooking

A slight change in routine is sometimes a good thing.

If the adults are usually the ones taking over the kitchen to make the meal or dessert, why not change things up and allow the children to get involved with the cooking or baking?

4. Make it fun

“The best gift you can give your children is your time,” Ms Durrant said.

“If your plans have changed, use it as an opportunity to spend quality time together and make special memories.”

You can ask your children what they’d love to do, whether it's baking, decorating cookies and festive biscuits, or crafting Christmas tree decorations, let them take control and make it fun.

Alternatively you could surprise your children with something special that you know they’ll enjoy, like a treasure hunt, or a movie night complete with popcorn and sweets.

Ms Durrant added: “Have an at-home family Christmas disco. Play the music, dance like no one is watching, and show your children your silly side.

“Extra points if you dust off the disco ball! Or set up a tent in your house and let the children sleep in it or play in it.”

5. Have an online party

If parting your children from their friends or favourite cousins makes them sad, you can always set up a family Zoom party, 2020-style, with lots of games and activities to keep every virtual guest entertained.

You could start by setting up a family fancy dress competition to find out who can come up with the craziest outfits.

Ms Durrant said: “There are so many options now of things to do via Zoom. Older teens may enjoy a murder mystery activity for example. Or younger children may enjoy Pictionary.”

There are a variety of online versions of this game, such as Drawize and Skribbl.