How to feel close to family and friends during the holidays without being there in person

The holidays are usually a time to get together with family and friends, but the coronavirus pandemic has made that increasingly difficult — especially as experts point to small social gatherings as spreading events.

Virginia Tech Human Development and Family Sciences expert Rosemary Blieszner said staying in touch with loved ones and showing affection is essential for mental and physical health, so don’t be completely disconnected.

Here is a list of things you can do to feel close to family and friends while apart from them from Virginia Tech Human Development and Family Sciences experts:

  • Video calls or phone calls with family and friends for catching up, storytelling, poetry reading, drumming or singing. Have those on the call each give a reason they feel grateful or tell what they remember and appreciate about ancestors.
  • Quick emails or text messages to let someone special know you are thinking of them
  • Make and mail a simple card with a holiday greeting.
  • Start a round-robin newsy letter, recipe exchange or photo album. Invite family or friends to add their part and pass it on through the mail.
  • Using email, each person adds a line to a poem that someone starts, builds a story paragraph by paragraph or draws a new panel in a collective cartoon. Then send it on to the next person on the list.
  • Hold porch or driveway catch-up conversations.
  • Try old-fashioned Christmas caroling — on the front sidewalk, at the end of the apartment building hallway or on a video call.
  • Let local family and friends know that you’ll be doing drive-by greetings on a certain day and time so they can come outside. Give them a wave as you pass by.
  • Visit with someone special through the window or storm door.
  • Find an online travelogue, museum tour or inspiring musical piece. Encourage others to watch or listen, then talk about it on the phone or a video call.
  • Create a virtual book club. Invite family or friends to read the same book with you, then talk about it on the phone or a video call.

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However, if you think you can safely visit loved ones with minimal risk, Virginia Tech Human Development and Family Sciences suggests you follow these tips:

  • Get a flu shot.
  • Always follow local health and safety guidelines concerning gatherings and avoid traveling to places with high numbers of COVID-19 cases.
  • Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth to keep everyone around you safe, and make sure others are wearing masks as well.
  • Create a small social bubble or pod — people who are practicing all the guidelines related to wearing a face covering, washing hands often, avoiding crowds and committing to being together in person only with other members of the pod. Celebrate holidays only with those in your social bubble.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that in general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.
  • Visit outdoors or make sure indoor spaces are well ventilated with open windows or doors. Those from the same household can sit together, but the space should be large enough to make sure those from different households are keeping at least 6 feet apart.
  • Avoid buffet-style eating. Have one person serve everyone else to avoid many people handling the same items.
  • While celebrating together, ask everyone to take a break from phones and social media — be really present and in the moment with each other.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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