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What First Responder’s Families Go Through During the Holidays

November 4

We have officially made it to the holiday season! Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are upon us. While regulars are out shopping for loved ones and taking PTO to get into the spirit of things, those 911 calls never stop. In fact, they increase! As a first responder family, you may even be forced to spend some holidays without them, as it is extremely unlikely they will be making them all. 

Unfortunately, the schedule doesn’t get put on pause for the holiday season, and it certainly does not care about what’s important to your family. Due to the extreme importance of a first responders job, it is up to the family to adjust to their schedule. 

First Responders During the Holiday Season

The holidays can be a really great time for a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean emergency calls cease to exist. The holidays are often filled with more dangers than normal due to an increase in celebration and free time. On any given day, first responders are tasked with tending to crimes, natural disasters, and other critical situations. During the holidays, instances are unpredictable, as we see an increase in drunk driving, public intoxication, and vehicle crashes during the holiday season. 

Because of this, some expectations can cause first responders to dread the holiday season. This can create a sense of negativity and a pessimistic view during an otherwise joyful time of the year. First responders have longer shifts, increased dangers, and more to be concerned about during the holidays, which causes stress and burnout. Despite the positive connotations regarding the holiday season, it is a major cause of stress for first responders and their families. So how can families celebrate the holidays effectively? 

How to Celebrate as a First Responder Family

Since the families are left to adjust to the schedules of the first responders, it’s crucial to be adaptable in any way possible. There are many things you can do as a first responder family to successfully celebrate the holidays while still adhering to the first responder's schedule. 

Create an alternative day to celebrate

Who says Thanksgiving has to be on the last Thursday of November? The essence of the holiday is being thankful for what you have, which you can do any day! Instead of creating a huge feast on a Thursday, consider doing it over the weekend or before. That way, those who have a strict schedule can still physically participate in the holidays!

Make new traditions as a first responder family

You can always keep the old traditions, with or without your first responder spouse. However, your immediate family should create its own holiday traditions that complement your family’s lifestyle. Maybe this means always opening Christmas gifts before Christmas, or having a Halloween costume party at the house. This way, your traditions put more emphasis on an experience rather than a specific day. 

Communicate and plan ahead

Sometimes fate is on our side and you can celebrate the holidays as usual! You never truly know unless you communicate with the first responder and your extended family on how to go about celebrating. Before plans are made, make sure everyone is in the loop with schedules and how to work around them if needed. 

Source: Chateaurecovery (2021) First Responders Celebrating the Holidays

Source: Rachelle Zemlok (2023) Tips for Helping First Responders’s Families Adjust to the Holidays

Source: Rachel Engel (2021) How to Celebrate the Holidays as a First Responder Family

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