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Acknowledge all your emotions.

The holidays can bring up difficult emotions for us at the best of times. As we celebrate this year during a pandemic, it makes sense that some of those feelings might be amplified. Give yourself permission to feel sadness and stress, as well as grief for the holiday experience you’d prefer to be having, and remind your senior loved ones that they should do so, too. Have an honest conversation about the parts of the holiday season you feel like you’re missing. We can all practice gratitude and feel optimistic about giving each other long-overdue hugs in the new year while still making space for our disappointments.

Go all-out with your holiday cards.

If you traditionally send holiday cards, you might want to embellish them a bit more this year. Rather than standard seasons greetings, consider including a few details about what your family’s been up to this year, some extra warm wishes, and even some pictures! If you have children, handmade cards from them will likely bring a smile to your senior loved ones’ faces. If you don’t normally send cards, doing so this year is one way to connect with loved ones you’re not able to see over the holidays. Your cards don’t need to be expensive or elaborate – homemade cards are great, too! What matters most is the message inside. If postage fees or postal delays are a concern, e-cards are also an option.

Include those who are absent in your celebrations.

Just because your loved ones aren’t physically present, that doesn’t mean you can’t include them in your holiday activities. Make your great-aunt’s famous sugar cookies, and be sure to take pictures of the finished product. Give your children gifts from their grandparents and film the presents being opened, or do it live over Zoom or FaceTime. Create a musical production of one of your parent’s favorite seasonal songs with the other members of your household. Snap a photo of the family heirloom ornaments on your tree, and share it with loved ones.

By doing activities like these, you’re communicating to your parent, grandparent, or other senior loved one(s) that they’ve influenced the way you celebrate the winter holidays, and that your celebrations aren’t complete without them.

Take advantage of technology.

Since many holiday traditions are going virtual this year, why not include your whole extended family? Invite everyone to a Zoom call so you can all celebrate together. Be mindful that a well-attended Zoom call might be a bit overwhelming for your senior loved one(s), so try not to talk over one another. You might even wish to decide on a group activity beforehand, like singing a holiday song together, offering a prayer as a family, or letting the grandkids show off what Santa brought them one by one.

Send gifts early.

While presents aren’t the most important part of the holidays, having a little something to open can make the holiday feel particularly festive. If you have senior loved ones who you aren’t able to see over the holidays, send gifts their way as soon as possible, so that they’ll reach your loved ones on time despite shipping delays caused by the pandemic. Looking for a simple and thoughtful gift idea? Try something cozy, like a throw blanket or a pair of slippers with good treads on their soles. Or pick something personalized, like a book you think your loved one will like (large print may be preferable for your senior loved ones), or a mug with a design your loved one will enjoy for all their warm beverages during the colder months. Or maybe you’d like to give your loved one something that will help keep them entertained as we continue to practice social distancing, like a tablet, some new music to listen to, an adult coloring book, or a puzzle with less than 100 pieces.

Worship together even when you’re apart.

If your family is religious, look for an online service that you can all attend, just as you might if you were spending the season together. Remember to discuss how to access the service with your senior loved one(s) ahead of time, in order to try and avoid technological difficulties on the day. Alternatively, use technology to gather your whole family for a private moment of worship. If your senior loved one is up to it, you can even ask them to guide the family in prayer.

Make food deliveries.

If you live close to your senior loved one(s) but aren’t spending the holidays with them due to COVID-19 precautions, you can still share your favorite festive foods with them. Consider dropping off your loved one’s favorite baked goods, or even bringing them a full dinner plate to enjoy. If you live further away from your loved ones, some baked goods, like cookies, travel fairly well – an edible treat could be a wonderful addition to a holiday care package!

Stay connected after the holidays.

At one time or another, most of us have probably experienced a bit of melancholy at the end of the holiday season. We wait for weeks to celebrate with our friends and family, and it’s a bit sad when the festivities come to an end. This year in particular, make a concerted effort to keep your senior loved one(s) from experiencing this feeling by maintaining consistent contact with them after the holidays are over. If you gather for a big family Zoom call on Christmas Day, for example, give your loved one a call on the twenty-sixth, too, even if it’s just for a brief chat. Plan to get in touch again soon after – you might even want to set up a phone call/video call schedule. It’s wonderful to put effort into connecting with loved ones over the holidays, but with all of us experiencing more loneliness thanks to the physical distancing necessitated by the coronavirus, this year it’s more important than ever to continue to foster those connections after the holidays, too.