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How to Make the Most of the Holiday Season While Miles Apart

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Make the Most of the Holiday Season
A family watches a movie together in their living room. (Photo courtesy of Blue Star Families)

Like so many military families this year, my military family faced some difficult decisions for the holidays. We are stationed in Colorado, and our families are on the east coast, which is far from being within driving distance. In an ideal world, we would love to spend time with loved ones.

Trust me, we thought through every possible way to make that happen: Could we work remotely to quarantine for two weeks before traveling? Could we get tested before leaving and upon arriving? Could we bite the bullet and drive 30 hours with two young kids? If we felt like there was a viable, safe option, we would have done it. Unfortunately, there just isn’t. And safety for all is our number one priority.

The good news is, we’re a military family. If there’s ever a family that’s prepared to take on changed plans, time away from family, or less than ideal circumstances, it’s military families. We’ve got this!

But, just in case you’re not so sure, and maybe not so jolly for the holiday season, I want to remind you of a couple of things. First, this year will not last forever. Even though I swear the month of March alone lasted 756 days, 2020 is nearly done.

We will get through this. When we do, the holidays that follow will be an incredible celebration full of love and laughter. And hugs … all the hugs! Until then, the second thing I want to remind you of is we live in incredible times with amazing technology available to help keep us connected.

Here are some fun ideas:

Watch a movie together

Our family has a tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve. That present always includes super comfy pajamas, a hot chocolate mix, and a family movie to watch before bed. While we won’t all be gathered around the same TV this year, we can still watch “together” yet virtually, using a service like Movies Anywhere.

Read together over video chat

Another favorite family tradition? My Dad (Papa to my kids) reads Twas the Night Before Christmas before tucking us into bed. This year through video chat Papa can read to the kids virtually with fun, interactive visuals.

Virtual Holiday Sweater Happy Hour

This one is for the adults. Get your family together for a virtual happy hour! Zoom has really been one of the stars of the show this year. Instead of the constant work calls (that we all know could have been done over email), use Zoom or another video chat program for something fun. Dress in your festive favorites, have your bartender brother (just me?) come up with a family cocktail for everyone to make and take an hour to relax and enjoy each other.

Virtual Cookie Baking

Real talk: I’m not a good baker. But I love a good holiday cookie. Who doesn’t, right? So I’m using Zoom again to make my cookie … oops, I mean my kids’ cookie dreams come true. It’s definitely all about the kids. (No way am I going to hide a separate cookie tub in my closet and eat them after the kids are sleeping … definitely not.) My mom sent me the list of ingredients to include in my grocery delivery, and she’ll be on the other side of the screen teaching me.

Whatever your family’s favorite holiday traditions are, and no matter how far apart you physically are, try and make the most of it while staying safe. Use the amazing resources out there. Reach out and stay connected. We will all get through this crazy year together.

Caroline Koehn is the National Events and Public Relations Manager for Blue Star Families, which includes planning and executing chapter launches, the annual survey release and other high-level events. Koehn is an Army spouse, mother of two and grew up in an Air Force family.

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