10 phrases to help kids cope with holiday disappointment this year

Although nobody knows for sure what the next few months will look like, one thing is practically certain: this year’s holiday celebrations will be different from those of years past. With all the changes our children have had to adjust to this year, having to modify the magic of the holidays may be one adjustment too many for some kids.

Rather than have them see this year’s changes as another set of losses, help model resilience and positivity by showing them all the unique opportunities and gifts these changes may bring.


The following 10 phrases can help you build resilience in your child when discussing the changes this holiday season.

1. “What can we do to make this year special?”

When your child complains that it’s not fair they can’t go to Grandma’s house, or that the holidays won’t be the same without a school holiday party, try helping them identify something that’s important to him that he can still do. This activity may be an old favorite that is still doable, or something new they’ve always thought sounded fun. Building in special activities is important every year, but it’s especially so this year.

2. “When I’m sad, it can help me to…”

Our children’s feelings are real and legitimate; it’s important to let them feel all their feelings. A great way to build resilience is to help children identify how to help themselves when they feel sad or angry. Use these times as a chance to help your child build self-calming skills that will last a lifetime.

3. “What if instead of doing that, we try…”

Help your child identify replacement activities that accomplish the same outcome as the traditions you have to skip this year. Although you might not visit Santa at the mall, maybe you can write him a letter together. Although you can’t play with cousins, maybe you can do a Zoom call and play Holiday Show and Tell to show off new presents. Get creative and find ways to replace family favorites.

4. “You know what we can finally do this year?”

We all know the holidays are overbooked and high-stress most years. There’s likely something you or your child have always wanted to do, but never had the time to make it happen. This can finally be your year! Maybe it’s staying in jammies all day because you don’t have to visit relatives, maybe it’s making a gingerbread house from scratch, or maybe it’s reading all your holiday stories in front of a fire. This is the year to build in those activities you never could quite fit in.