Longing , Loss & Love This Holiday Season

The excitement of presents and Christmas is all wrapped up. The activities checked off the list. As the excitement fades, its very likely that the big feelings will rise! This holiday season has been like none other. The familiar traditions and gathering with family will  not looked the same. As parents and adults, its likely we are feeling all kinds of feels about this. At this point, many months of pivoting, adapting and juggling all the balls leaves us feeling fatigued, lonely, irritable and a whole host of other roller coaster feelings! These are all normal. We are doing this for the first time , and first times are hard! Add parenting children to the global pandemic mix, and it is a whole new level of pivots ,shifts , emotions and needs to meet. If we are feeling all the feels this Holiday season, so are our children.


Many children will be feeling a loss this holiday season. A loss of normalcy. A longing for the people they normally gather with. A desire for things like playdates and going to grandparents’ house. Tradition is a very important binding element for family. This year, many of those traditions will look different or be interrupted, and that ,simply put is just “really sad”.


Often we think of the loss or longing we are feeling as adults, and that of our children and we immediately feel that we “shouldn’t “ be feeling this way. We may go to a place of “ But someone else has it so much worse than I do right now”.  That is true, the loss and pain in the world right now is immense. The reality is, your feeling of loss, and your child’s feeling of loss and longing is REAL & VALID. It  deserves space to be felt and expressed, no matter what.


So how as parents do we help our children with this loss and feelings this season? How do we help recognize how they may be feeling, all while still trying to make the best of it?


Here are a few steps to help:


  1. Check in & honour + give names to your own feelings. You may write them out or share them with a trusted person. Acknowledge them, let yourself feel them and just let them be.


  1. Watch for cues that your child may be missing something. They may express it verbally or appear be more withdrawn , or  be acting out. When you notice this, make space to connect. You may say something like “ I noticed you seem a little down and quiet, I know it’s tough this holiday season with everything being so different” . Behaviour is always communication.


  1. Try to avoid talking your children out of their feelings and quickly trying to make it better to cheer them up. Often when children (or humans in general) express a feeling, we instantly want to make it better. This comes from our own discomfort with the feeling. Instead, we encourage you to hear the feeling, help give it a name and validate the feeling. That sounds something like this:


Child : “ I don’t like this Christmas, we don’t get to do ANY of the fun things”

Adults: “ I hear ya, this is so hard”

Child:     “ Ya it is the worst, I hate it, I just want a normal Christmas”

Adult:  “  It’s so frustrating that we can’t do the things we love to do this year! You are      right, nothing feels quite normal at all”

An approach like this allows the child to be heard, validated, and often the big feelings , when shared simply pass.

This is a hard season. All while honouring the hard parts, we can still let simple JOY in. Focus on the basics, slow down, experience nature and slow mornings at home. Break out the board games or the puzzles, watch all the movies, take in the Christmas lights. Light and dark exist together and this holiday season is bound to have a mix of both. There will be magic and there will be mess – may we feel and honour it all. There is no RIGHT or PERFECT way to be during this season. May we also be gentle with ourselves as parents and each other as we navigate these trying times.

Here at Growing Roots Therapy, we are here to support you with the mental health and counselling services for your children and family. We specialize in play therapy and counselling for children and youth in Winnipeg, Manitoba.