Celebrating Special Events and Milestones in a Pandemic

April 2020 By: Erin Harlow-Parker, APRN, PMHCNS-BC Advanced practice registered nurse, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
baby smashing cake

Everyone’s experience is going to be different during the coronavirus pandemic, but we’re all missing out on things we were once excited about. Whether you were looking forward to seeing your teen walk across the stage at graduation, your kids are beyond bummed that the tournaments and performances they worked so hard for are cancelled, or everyone simply wanted to celebrate their birthdays with friends and family, you all have the right to grieve your losses. Grief is a very normal and natural response to loss. Let your kids know it’s OK to be upset and disappointed.

Even as you are grieving your losses, it’s still important to have fun and enjoy important celebrations, milestones and holidays as best you can! Here are some creative ways to make the most of celebrating from home and create lasting family memories.

Birthday celebrations
Give your child the opportunity to decide how they want to celebrate. Whether they want to do a Zoom birthday party, lounge on the couch watching a movie, or spend the day playing outside, work with your child to figure out a birthday plan that works for them (and you!).

Here are just a few ideas to celebrate:

  • Organize a virtual party so everyone can sing to the birthday boy or girl! Consider asking guests to prepare something to do or eat as a group.
  • Bake a cake (or cookies) together.
  • Have a family dance party.
  • Organize a scavenger hunt at home based on the birthday child by only including things that begin with the first letter of their name or in their favorite color.
  • Organize a drive-by celebration where friends and family line up their cars to sing happy birthday, with the birthday boy or girl standing in the front yard or on a balcony.

Special performances and milestones
Talent shows, theater productions, graduations—you name it, it’s been cancelled. Your kids worked so hard for these moments (and you did, too)! Even though you can’t replace the real thing, you can still give them a chance to enjoy their special moment.

Host a virtual celebration or performance:

  • Invite close friends and family for a virtual celebration or performance via Zoom (or another platform).
  • Encourage participants to dress up, make signs, applaud and cheer.
  • Start the virtual call by sharing a few kind words to your child. Let them know how proud you are of their accomplishments and wish them well. (You can also invite participants to come prepared with well wishes.)
  • After the mock graduation or performance, have something ready to celebrate with, such as balloons, flowers or cake—whatever will bring a smile to your child’s face.

Holidays
Even if we can’t visit places of worship or be with lots of friends and families, holidays shouldn’t be cancelled for 2020. Despite the challenges, there are many creative ways to celebrate and connect with loved ones during this time.

  • Take advantage of the many religious institutions that are streaming online services.
  • Cook a nice dinner as a family. Upgrade your loungewear to a real outfit, take some pictures, set the table and enjoy a meal together. You can always invite friends and family to eat with you virtually, too!
  • Participate in a mail swap. Have your kids write and decorate cards to mail to friends and family, and invite them to do the same. Not only is it a fun activity for the kids, but the mail you receive will make for great decorations and memories.
  • Host a virtual game night. Group video chat apps, such as Houseparty, have games that you can play with up to 8 people.
baby smashing cake

About The Author

Erin Harlow-Parker, APRN, PMHCNS-BC
Advanced practice registered nurse, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Erin is an advanced practice registered nurse with more than three decades of experience in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry. In addition to supporting Strong4Life, Erin serves as a member of the Children’s psychiatry consult team. Beyond her direct patient-care responsibilities, Erin is actively involved in many state behavioral health initiatives and was awarded the Institute for Healthcare Improvement/National Patient Safety Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses in 2018.

Bio

Erin Harlow-Parker, APRN, PMHCNS-BC
Advanced practice registered nurse, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta


Erin is an advanced practice registered nurse and has worked in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry for more than 30 years. In addition to supporting the emotional wellness initiative for Strong4Life, Erin serves as a member of the Children’s psychiatry consult team. Beyond her direct patient-care responsibilities, Erin is actively involved in many state behavioral health initiatives and was awarded the Institute for Healthcare Improvement/National Patient Safety Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses in 2018.

Erin earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Rhode Island College and went on to earn her Master of Science in child and adolescent psychiatric nursing from Northeastern University.

Erin says her biggest challenge as a parent is seeing how fast time flies. Her daughters are now young adults, and while Erin is so proud of the women they have become, letting go is very hard.

Erin loves to travel, decorate, shop and cook. When she’s not working, you can find her spending time with her husband, daughters and dog.