Covid-19: A virtual Christmas with your disabled brother or sister
This year is a difficult time for siblings who usually spend winter holidays - like Thanksgiving, Hannukkah, Christmas, New Year's Eve/Hogmanay - with their disabled brother or sister and are unable to because of the pandemic. We asked adult siblings to tell us what they’re planning this year. Do you have tips to share? We’d love to hear them - email email@example.com
- Dress up for your daily exercise walk (reindeer antlers or a santa beard anyone?)
- If you’re having window visits to their care home, can you add festive stickers or fake snow to the window on their room?
- If restrictions allow and it’s safe to do so, can you make a short festive treasure hunt in the garden or park?
“For us, Christmas planning has been about managing my sister’s expectations and reassuring her that we will manage to do something nice regardless of what is going on. It’s difficult to know how to her manage expectations well as there are no certainties. I don’t want to promise her that things will be OK/go back to normal etc, as we don’t know when they will either. But I do want to give her things to look forward to.” – adult sibling
“By far my favourite festive holiday, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends and reflect on the things for which we are thankful. While we cannot physically gather as a family at the moment, I am extremely grateful to the care team that has supported my sister tirelessly throughout lockdown and who will provide her with a special Thanksgiving celebration this year.” – adult sibling
“Christmas has always been different with my sister who has Down Syndrome and who now lives in care. As she doesn’t live locally, I’ve only been able to see her twice this year, and at the time of writing I have no idea if we’ll be able to visit over Christmas. I last saw her in August when she was being cheeky and a little bit naughty, deliberately spilling her drink all over the table and laughing at me, almost goading me to tell her off. If I do get to see her at Christmas, I will happily let her spill her drink all over again and I might join in too.” – Helen, adult sibling
- Have a singalong advent! Everyday from 1st – 24th December, sing a song together over the phone for five minutes. Make it a carol, or a favourite chart song.
- Text or email a weekly festive image
- On the day itself, catch up over meal times – if the main meal is too long, have a virtual breakfast or a cuppa together
- Buy two of the same item (such as a party popper) and send them one. Over a video call, pull the party poppers together
- If a live call is hard, try recording short videos or sound recordings and sending them back and forth to each other
“This year we know we might not be able to see my brother – he shares a house with someone who is extremely medically vulnerable so it has been difficult. Me and my sister have decided to make a Christmas video – we will dress up and sing “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” – his favourite song! We are going to make mince pies and send some over so we can eat them together – a favourite Christmas treat.” – adult sibling
Things to post
- Favourite sibling photograph from a previous celebration
- An item of clothing that might bring comfort, such as a scarf that smells like you
- A DVD of a festive film you usually watch together
- Something to decorate their space with, like fairy lights
- Wrap up some biscuits or a festive chocolate bar
- Something noisy like party poppers or blowers
- Anything that ‘smells like’ the holiday to you both, such as a scented handcream, candle or air freshener
“One thing we have done is my sister gives me a list every now and again of DVDs she wants to watch and I do a little online order. Quite a lot of slightly older films are pretty cheap so she gets a few deliveries now and again and can watch something she likes to pass the time.” – adult sibling
“We’ve been waiting on news of the post-lockdown on whether we can see our sister, but if news is right it looks like we can, which is always a dinner on Christmas Eve. However, this year we have made her a special photo advent calendar and each day has a picture of her, a member of the family or our pets, we’ve included the cats and dogs Gemma and I have between us! It is a surprise so she’ll get it next week, I hope she likes it! We did this as if she can’t meet up, she still gets to see us all over the Christmas period.” – Lyndsey, adult sibling
“Christmas can be a stressful time for all. Make sure you have something for yourself to enjoy prepared and also something to look forward to”. Allison, London adult sibling group co-facilitator
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