Doctors provide mental health tips to deal with Thanksgiving changes

Many will spend holiday without their loved ones
Posted at 4:20 PM, Nov 24, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This Thanksgiving is going to be unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think a lot of people feel mixed emotions about this holiday, that they were really looking forward to it," said Dr. Kadie Harry, a Saint Luke's Health System psychologist.

For many, dining tables will look empty this holiday with out-of-town family staying home, and there will be no driving to a relative's house for the big meal.

"With the surging cases, a lot of families are canceling their celebrations maybe within the last week," Harry said. "It can feel really disappointing."

Doctors around Kansas City said this time is going to be difficult for everyone. For those who feel like they have been hit hard by the holiday emotions, experts have a few tips.

First, utilize apps such as Zoom or FaceTime in the absence of physically spending time with family.

"People are finding creative ways to do a Zoom Thanksgiving or say, okay, we are going to share our dinnertime at the same time," Harry said. "Or let's make the same recipe and eat it."

Second, Harry suggests having some faith in the future.

"Even though we do not have an exact date of when things might change or feel more 'normal,' there is hope that we will see our families in the future," she said.

Harry also said it's important to acknowledge any sad feelings.

For parents, try to make this holiday fun for children and remind them that the feelings they too are having are valid.

"It's key to understand that kids often pick up cues from their parents," said Dr. Ram Chettiar, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Children's Mercy Hospital. "So if parents can manage those emotions, I think that is very important. We also know that building resilience comes from overcoming disappointment, so parents have an opportunity to teach their kids about resilience in a time like this."

While this holiday might not be ideal, doctors want to remind everyone of this simple message.

"If you are staying safe this Thanksgiving, that you are not only keeping yourself safe, but you are keeping other people and your community safe," Harry said.