Family dynamics are the invisible force behind every caregiving journey

Fun and creative virtual family gatherings

Most of us are trying to figure out how to connect with family this holiday season in the midst of a pandemic. These are tough decisions. There is an emotional charge to holidays and holiday events for families. Some families have made the difficult decision and are saying “no” to being together in person this year. Others have made the decision to have a small indoor family gathering designed in a way to keep everyone as safe as possible from COVID transmission. Others again have opted to host and attend virtual family gatherings. This blog offers ideas on how to have fun and creative virtual family gatherings during this holiday season.

Silver Linings?

I recently read about the silver linings to be found in the fact that many holiday and family gatherings are being cancelled this year, or the gatherings are much smaller or are virtual.  We all know why.

These silver linings revolve around what there will be less of than usual: travelling, busyness with holiday gatherings and parties, cooking, baking, cleaning, and general rushing around. Hmmm. Those silver linings might have landed for me if the previous 9 months hadn’t included lockdowns, working at home, social isolation and limited family gatherings. That’s why I am not keen on cancelling holidays and family gatherings. Most of all, I refuse to let COVID hijack the holiday spirit.

Bring on the festive, bring on the joy

To borrow from Mari Kondo, what sparks joy in you? We can extend that question from our stuff to activities, how we spend our time. And during this season, as Laura Vanderkam, an expert on time management reminds us, the whole idea behind “festive” is doing things we ordinarily don’t do. Vanderkam reminds us:

Happiness takes work. The discipline of joy requires spending time imagining and planning things we don’t have to do, but that would bring fun and meaning to ourselves and the people we love.

Step outside the ordinary, the usual

By now, given we are 9 months in this pandemic, adults, children, and even some pets have spent hours virtually on different devices. Being able to connect virtually is a blessing during a pandemic. At the same time, lots of us are looking for some inspiration for virtual fun and doing something different than usual. I googled virtual holiday party ideas and there were over 278,000,000 results! Activities that engage our emotions (the positive ones!) are what bonds us to others. The activity doesn’t have to in-person to be emotionally engaging. Here are some of the top ideas for virtual fun:

Virtual fun (alcohol may or may not be involved)

  • Virtual karaoke
  • Online toasts
  • Share an online meal together (or all order from same restaurant or type of restaurant)
  • Bring on acting chops and have a dramatic holiday reading
  • Wine tasting
  • Make it a pajama party
  • Host a charity donation party (eg., I’ll give you 10 bucks if you sing a holiday song for us, dress as an elf, send us all cookies beforehand, etc.). Have each member donate all the money to charity
  • Curate a holiday play list and send to everyone before your event/party. Get everyone to add their favourites.
  • Have a Scavenger hunt
  • Make it a dessert party (make together or make and send to everyone to eat together during the party)
  • Entertainment night – family members contribute- who can sing? play an instrument? do performance art? (or think they can). Bring on the amateur hour! On the other hand, I only found out as an adult that my family were just being polite when I played my accordian every Christmas!
  • Have an interactive gratitude party. Here is a super creative and fun list of different virtual gratitude activities, which were designed for Thanksgiving, but work equally well for all holidays. Why gratitude? It’s a great way to tap into a well of warmth and love, and when we express gratitude, we feel closer to others. That is the point, isn’t it?
  • Play a virtual game together –movie game trivia or holiday trivia, charades, Pictionary, online holiday bingo
  • Have a contest for best customized background (no green screens please!)

Other fun activities

Research events and holiday activities across Canada…maybe it’s a mask wearing  caroling hour, or magical holiday light displays, or viewing ice castles. The point is to not let COVID hijack the holiday season. It is a season of love, and COVID can’t take that away (unless we let it!)

How are you going to connect with family over the holiday season?

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