How to build resilience in children amid a coronavirus Christmas

Alexandra Thompson
·3-min read
Senior men and his granddaughter spending time together in home for Christmas
Children and adults alike will be forced to celebrate Christmas rather differently given 2020's pandemic. (Posed by models, Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic means Christmas will likely feel rather different in 2020.

With the festive season a highlight in many people’s calendars, particularly children’s, pared down celebrations may leave some flat.

Psychologist Dr Parker Huston, from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, has shared how parents can build resilience in their little ones as the coronavirus hangs over “the most wonderful time of the year”.

Read more: Keep Santa for children’s mental health in 2020

Family with small daughter indoors at home at Christmas, having video call on tablet.
Limits on household get-togethers mean many will be spreading festive cheer virtually. (Posed by models, Getty Images)

Early in the outbreak, experts warned the coronavirus could have a “profound” and “pervasive” impact on people’s mental health for some time.

In June, the charity The Children’s Trust reported the pandemic was causing some youngsters to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A survey by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital has since found two-thirds of parents are worried the effects of the outbreak on their little one’s mental health will be more challenging to recover from the longer the virus persists.

Read more: Normal Christmas ‘not a good idea’

Dr Huston has stressed, however, a decline in emotional wellbeing does not have to be a given.

“Parents should take heart that kids have the ability to be incredibly resilient with the right support,” he said.

“As they grow up, children are always changing, adapting to and learning new things.

“Of course, they do have their own expectations, routines and memories, so when they are told at this time of year their holidays are going to be different, it can be difficult for them to accept, especially if they feel like they’re missing out on some of their favourite parts of the season.”

Watch: Christmas best time for new restrictions, says Oxford professor

Dr Huston recommends families have open and honest conversations early on in the Christmas festivities, where parents describe how the usual traditions may be different this year.

Parents should encourage a discussion on how everyone feels about those changes, he added.

With Christmas plays, carol services and parties off the table, Dr Huston is encouraging people to adopt alternative – but coronavirus safe – ways of enjoying the festive season.

Read more: Father Christmas will not have to wear a mask in Santa’s grottos

“As parents, I think it’s on us to be more creative this year, considering our kids’ favourite parts of this season and coming up with ways they can stay connected and active, even if some traditions need to change or be made new,” said Dr Huston, clinical director of On Our Sleeves, “the movement to transform children’s mental health”.

“A cooking or baking lesson could be a great way to teach kids more about the family recipes they enjoy.

“Outdoor games can help keep everyone active and engaged with each other.”

While Christmas will undoubtedly be different in 2020, many families still have a lot to be grateful for.

Parents should therefore encourage their children to count their blessings and be thankful for what they have, according to Dr Huston.

His comments come after a psychologist from the University of Exeter stressed 2020 is not the year to tell children the truth about Father Christmas.

Watch: Public react to Christmas coronavirus rules