For many families, the holiday season is going to look drastically different this year. Though there are many different approaches to celebrating with friends and family, there is one common denominator—the desire to be with loved ones.
If you are planning a Zoom, FaceTime or online interaction as part of your turkey day, here are some tips to make it more successful for everyone– young and old.
Tips for a virtual family holiday gathering
1. PLAN AHEAD
Introducing a virtual element to your holidays is not going to happen organically. Talk amongst the participants and come up with a plan that is balanced and realistic. The first step is to make the most tech savvy person as point to ensure everyone has the equipment, appropriate links and permissions to join a virtual celebration.
A trial run the day before or morning of could prevent food getting cold while someone idles in a waiting room unable to access the meeting. Zoom is waiving time limits on Thanksgiving Day which means you can hang with your people without worrying about cut-offs or paying fees.
2. BE FLEXIBLE
Conversely, we are all winging it here. A plan is great but it may not resemble your usual schedule. So, if you normally eat at 4pm but for the sake of virtual peace 1pm is better–go with it. As long as there is a consensus, be as free-wheeling as possible.
3. RESPECT YOUR ELDERS
If your family is like ours, the grandparents are the most bereft at the loss of holiday traditions. So, we are seeking their input first. We have asked what aspects are most important to share as a group and what time of day works best for them. Having input will help alleviate the sadness over the break from tradition.
4. GET YOUR PINTEREST ON
Make a meaningful centerpiece that honors family and friends. For instance, I am making place cards for the entire family and weaving them into the leaves, florals and candles of the centerpiece. This creation gives us something to share with the group that is way more interesting than watching us eat. And speaking of watching others eat…
5. PICK A FOCAL POINT
I can’t think of anything more painful than actually breaking bread together over a computer screen. We are focusing on sharing grace and a sentiment of gratitude from each family member before we eat and then fading to black. Other families may have pie and coffee as the time to be together. There is no wrong way to celebrate but make sure it’s a time when participants want to engage and interact.
6. FIND A POST MEAL ACTIVITY
Honestly, the best part of the day is the post-meal lounging as tryptophan courses through your veins. Why not find something to do together virtually? Have some old home movies that the grandkids haven’t seen? Or vintage 90’s VHS tapes of holidays past? Have someone willing to create a family trivia game? There is no better time to look back on decades of blessings than during this year’s holidays.
7. EMBRACE THE AWKWARD
This is all just weird, right? The best way to get through it is to acknowledge the awkward and embrace it. Keep your expectations reasonable. Yes, we are all getting more adept at virtual visits of all kinds but trying to recreate a holiday through technology is new territory for everyone. Accept that at some point, things will glitch and a reset may be necessary. It is not going to be the same but it can be meaningful.
8. DON’T BE SHY
I am famous for being camera shy. I obsess over angles, the tilt of my head and overall appearance in my little square of the virtual world. Let it go. No one is focusing on you but rather on the group and the sentiments being shared. This is great advice overall, but in particular during the holidays with those who love you, whether you like your chin on screen or not.
9. GET BUY-IN FROM KIDS
I can just see the eye rolls and sighs of total lameness that a virtual holiday may elicit. But I will be damned if anyone else will experience it. We are setting up a separate FaceTime for the cousins to hang together and watch football just like they would in the basement in person. The caveat is that they have to be present and participatory for the larger family call too. This is a wonderful time for a lesson in sacrificing for the sake of family and not taking anything for granted.
9.And lastly BE GRATEFUL
Gratitude is about all we have left that looks vaguely familiar in 2020, so make it the basis of the holiday season. Perspective will shift a negative into a positive and it is likely that you will have to pull some folks along and shift their view as well. In the end, the effort will be worth it.
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