How a Socially Distanced Holiday for Mesothelioma Patients Can Still Bring Everyone Together

virtual family gatherings for the holidays

With the holiday season now well underway, many families are asking themselves a similar question: How do we celebrate this important family holiday with the current safety recommendations related to COVID-19?

The question is no doubt a difficult one, and it’s understandable that millions of Americans are grappling with it as they finalize their holiday plans. The question can grow even more complicated when a family has to factor in health concerns for a vulnerable family member who is living with cancer, such as mesothelioma, or who is otherwise immunocompromised.

Many families who find themselves in this position are opting to make 2020 a virtual holiday celebration, as it presents the least amount of risk for Americans who are battling cancer.

Though this year’s celebrations may certainly be different, what matters most during the holidays is family. A virtual gathering can still provide families a social experience with a chance to see and hear loved ones, keeping everyone connected while remaining physically apart.

Setting Up a Virtual Holiday Event With Your Family

Before everyone sits down in front of their respective screens, it’s important to first iron out the details. Your family will have to answer:

  • How does your family want to get together this year? For your virtual event, you will need a date, a time and a platform. Should your family use Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Facebook Portal or some other live video platform? What time(s) works best for everyone? Should you do one or more virtual calls?
  • Which parts of your normal holiday rituals can you still do virtually? Some holiday rituals are still doable over video platforms, including opening gifts, eating a meal, watching a movie and even holding dance competitions!
  • Will the gathering include any fun, group activities? Some families play games and hold other group activities during the holiday season such as a Secret Santa or Yankee Swap. Which fun activities can you and your family do in order to keep a sense of holiday cheer?

Once your family has decided how and when to hold a virtual gathering for the holiday celebration, you then must figure out the best way to celebrate.

Fun Ideas for Your Family’s Virtual Holiday Celebration

Below we have gathered a few holiday celebration ideas your family may be able to try this year:

Host a Family Dinner

Food resides at the heart of many families, and each family has its own special recipes and traditional cuisines — so, if everyone is feeling up to it, why not make or eat a holiday meal together? Regardless of whether you decide to cook together or eat together, family dinner time is a great time for catching up or informal chit-chat.

Watch Home Movies Together

For many families, timeless memories have been captured on video. Perhaps this year is a good time to dust off those old Super 8 and VHS tapes and/or DVDs of past family gatherings and holiday celebrations and the like. Everyone can gather around their screens and watch home videos, laughing, joking and reliving happy memories. Grandparents may be able to convert their VHS tapes to a digital format, while kids and teens can share their own Instagram or TikTok videos.

Play a Family Game

Nothing like a little friendly holiday competition to bring out the best in families — at least some of the time, anyway…. Virtual charades is one great way to keep the virtual gathering fun, light and goofy, but other games are also feasible over video as well, including Two Truths and a Lie, Never Have I Ever and 20 Questions, to name only a few. For those using the platform Zoom, a number of virtual games are available and built straight into the platform — from online Bingo to classic games like Pictionary and Scattegories.

Hold Storytime

Sometimes nothing beats an old-fashioned story. Family members can take turns telling stories they make up or sharing stories from their lives. Almost like a game of telephone, collaborative storytelling is also an option, as each family member adds a sentence to an ongoing story that you create together. In addition, perhaps nothing beats classic children’s books. Grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts can take turns reading children’s stories to the young ones in the virtual gathering. A classic game of show-and-tell may also fall in this category.

Take Photos and Videos

Family gatherings almost always present opportunities for photographs and videos, and this holiday season should be no different. Though this year’s holidays may be different for some, it’s still nice to make and capture new memories. Live video platforms such as Zoom offer the option to record virtual meetings. Depending on your situation, you may choose to take screenshots, videos, or even pose for photos. If your loved ones are in extended care and unable to join, ask the facility to take photos and/or videos of any holiday activities that their loved ones participate in.

Tips for Creating a Great Virtual Holiday

When planning your virtual event this holiday season, it’s important to keep in mind a few things that can ultimately enhance the time your family spends together. Consider the following:

  • Establish Ground Rules: To minimize the number of people speaking all at the same time, set some ground rules. One rule might be to mute your microphone while others are speaking. Another idea might be to establish a host — a person who monitors and controls the call.
  • Use the Biggest Screen Possible: A good way to make your virtual gathering even better is to use the biggest screen in your house. Try connecting your computer to the TV screen or otherwise use the largest computer screen in your house.
  • Give the Gathering a Theme: It’s the holiday season — so why not make the gathering holiday-themed? Add another layer of fun to the virtual meeting by encouraging people to wear festive outfits, or challenge your family members to an ugly sweater competition!

Whatever your family decides, the most important thing is taking the time to connect with the ones we love.

The Importance of Staying Connected During the Holidays While Social Distancing

The year 2020 has certainly been a challenging one. It’s been hard for so many families, especially those that have vulnerable loved ones and are unable to see them. The tragedy has played out across America and the emotional toll has been nothing short of devastating.

For sick loved ones living in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, or even in their own homes, the isolation that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an enormous challenge. That’s why it’s more important than ever to stay creative and vigilant about staying connected to the ones you love.

Keeping together one’s support system may be more important now than ever before — especially during the holiday season, a time during which families are so used to gathering.

This holiday season, we recommend communicating regularly with loved ones and taking advantage of technology such as phones, computers and the internet. As our nation continues to fight off COVID-19, nothing could be more important than keeping the lines of communication open to those whom you love.

From all of us at Simmons Hanly Conroy, we wish you a very happy holiday season and an even better year to come.

Simmons Support Team
Simmons Hanly ConroyWritten by:

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The Simmons Hanly Conroy Editorial Team consists of journalists, writers and editors who strive to deliver accurate and useful information to families needing legal help. Our team works alongside the firm's attorneys and partners, as well as with medical professionals and other specialists, to keep all information relevant and helpful.