Skip to main content

Sonoma Family Life Magazine

8 Ways to Virtually Connect with Loved Ones This Thanksgiving

With coronavirus numbers on the rise across the country, your family may be preparing for a different Thanksgiving this year—no trip to Grandma’s house, no overflowing dinners with extended family and friends.

If you’ll be celebrating virtually with loved ones who aren’t in your quarantine group, here’s how can you make it special.

1. Plan a shared experience. No matter the distance, you’ll feel close on the big day if you share the same rituals. Have your child come up with ideas for all five senses, and spread the word to everyone on the virtual guest list: For example, plan to light the same scent of candle or prepare the same fragrant dish, and create a shared playlist to use as background music.

2. Create connection with meal prep. Thanksgiving meal may be the hardest time for your child to be apart from family members, like grandparents, who aren’t in your quarantine group. So focus on the steps that come before eating—they are easier to bond over from a distance: Schedule calls with family members who can help your child brainstorm the holiday menu and make a shopping list. Ask for a loved one’s favorite recipe, and video chat while you and your child test it out. (Bonus: These are great ways to get your child involved in the kitchen!)

3. Send Thanksgiving care packages. Mail or drop off treats and supplies to help guests feel part of the fun. Since you can’t crowd around one table to split a pumpkin pie, maybe you and your child can bake pumpkin muffins and drop them off on doorsteps, or make matching centerpieces for everyone to display on their holiday tables.

4. Try a Thanksgiving video chat. Have your child host “opening” and “closing ceremonies.” Your child might want to kick off things with a song or prayer, and wrap up with a round of jokes or the latest TikTok dance. With old traditions on hold, the possibilities are endless.

5. Try a new twist on a potluck. Since you’ll all be dining as separate households, a traditional potluck is out the window. But you can still ask every person to “bring” something to share virtually, such as a brief toast or favorite family photo.

6. Try a gratitude bowl. Have all the households in your extended family start this process a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Each day, each person writes something they’re grateful for on a slip of paper and adds it to their household bowl. During your Thanksgiving virtual event, take turns reading contributions aloud.

7. Keep the fun going! Once your Thanksgiving Day “program” has ended, you can prop up your device somewhere central and keep video chat going for any loved ones who want to stay connected; or have your child send occasional text updates on the day’s events—from the big turkey reveal to lounging in comfy clothes while you digest.

8. Make Thanksgiving resolutions. This can be part of your virtual get-together, or just a quiet conversation with your child to close out the day. What would your child like to learn, try, or do more of by Thanksgiving next year? This is a nice way to remind kids (and all of us) that we all have a lot to look forward to on the other side of this pandemic.

It’s hard on everyone to skip favorite holiday traditions. But as with so much else during the time of coronavirus, we can try new, quarantine-friendly ideas to fill in for what we’ll miss. It may even add new meaning to the holiday. 

Article reprinted with permission from Connecticut Children’s, a nonprofit with a mission to improve children’s access to health care. Find out more at