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COVID-19: Creative ways to stay connected with loved ones this Thanksgiving

Family video chat

Holiday events such as Thanksgiving are a time to disconnect from our busy lives and slow down so that we can connect, reflect with, and listen to our cherished ones as we express gratitude for all we have.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic and that safety measures such as physical distancing are still in place, 2020 is a time to explore different ways to re-connect. What is now important is discovering how to put new spins on old traditions in order for friends and family to stay connected in a safe way.

Unfortunately, when there are barriers to in-person socialization, feelings of both exclusion and loneliness can be intensified. This can play havoc with emotional and physical well-being.

Even though we will be celebrating differently this year, it is still wise to plan ahead. This will allow for coming up with creative suggestions as to how everyone can experience a sense of inclusion, especially during the holidays. Even the art of planning can be a connective activity allowing all ages to contribute suggestions.

Planning ahead: Virtual get-togethers 

When organizing, make sure everyone involved is comfortable using the technology required to participate. For instance, while the tech-savvy nephew might scoff at a Zoom lesson, a grandparent might appreciate help in setting it up!

Keep in mind, there may be modifications that need to be put in place to allow everyone to feel fully included. Webcams or headsets might come in handy for those with sensory deficits, and these tools can be used in the future to help continue communication well after the holidays.

Other ways to virtually connect with loved ones include:

  • Cooking or planning recipes together on virtual platforms (make the moment even more special by sharing secrets of traditional favourites!)
  • Playing games or doing fun activities together online (e.g., trivia night, dancing, karaoke, and many others!)
  • Sharing a meal together by connecting virtually (arrange a specific time for everyone to log onto their devices and enjoy an online celebration together)

Creative ways to stay connected

While technology is especially helpful to keep in touch with family and friends, it’s not always necessary.

Here are some ways that can help family and friends feel closer without going online:

  • Mail out real cards: Instead of sending an email, consider connecting with a hand-written card. It may take a longer time to arrive in a person’s mailbox but the heartfelt sentiments in hand will be worth it.
  • Send flowers or deliver food: Even though our lives are more virtual nowadays, people do appreciate tangible items at this time. Sending flowers or delivering food in a safe manner can make a big difference to someone, especially if they are isolated and alone during the holidays.
  • ​Go for a physically-distanced walk outdoors with family and friends during the day. Later on, each household can go online and meet virtually as a way to share the holiday meal together. While seeing each other on-screens may not be ideal, it is a nice way to still feel close while being physically apart during the pandemic.
  • An activity for all ages is to share photos, videos, and stories of past celebrations together. This can be done with a distanced outdoor visit or online as well.

Keep the connection going

It is beneficial to take time to feel grateful for what we have, and reflect on the positive relationships cultivated over time. Doing this helps protect and nourish our mental and physical well-being, which in turn can also help improve the well-being of our loved ones. Finding new ways for family and friends to be together is something that is well worth doing.

Being around familiar faces during this time is comforting, but it is also important to maintain these connections beyond the holidays! This unique time could be the perfect opportunity to kickstart healthy relationship habits. Staying connected with, and reaching out to loved ones is especially important during challenging times like these when we may have to physically be apart.

About the author

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Dr. Carolyn Boulos

Dr. Carolyn Boulos is a youth psychiatrist at Sunnybrook, and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.