One of the toughest transitions for children of divorce is coping with the first holiday season. As parents our challenge is to create new traditions and activities that can replace the memories of family holidays in the past. Here are some suggestions for helping your children keep the best spirits through the holiday season.
- Be Attentive and Compassionate
Talk to your children about the holidays. Listen, and don’t lecture. Let them vent about their feelings, regrets and frustrations. Acknowledge what they are expressing to you and show compassionate understanding. Be aware that some children will hold their feelings in as a means to protect you. Reassure them that it’s okay to talk about their sadness as well as apprehension about what they will experience this year.
Remind your children that what they are feeling is natural and normal. Be there for them with reassurance and hugs. Also let them know that some activities will still be part of their holiday celebrations. Help them understand that much of life will still continue in the same way, despite divorce.
- Be Responsible Regarding Your Ex
Studies show that children whose divorced parents get along with one another adapt much easier to the divorce. So talk to your ex about giving your children a happy holiday season in every possible way. If you can both spend some family time together with the children, without discord, they will appreciate your efforts. If you can’t, at least strive to make the drop-off experience peaceful and harmonious. Never bad-mouth your ex to the children, make them your messenger or have them spy for you at their other parent’s home. Model your best, most respectful and mature behavior with your ex in front of your children so they can enjoy their childhood, especially at this time of year.
- Be Creative in Starting New Memories
This year will lay the foundation for many holidays to come. So think about new ways to celebrate, new places to visit, new foods to prepare. By creating a fresh set of traditions you will give your children something to look forward to. By replacing old memories with the new, you can make the holidays special again for them. And if they do the same in their other parent’s home, they can enjoy an even fuller experience of celebrating the holidays.
By acknowledging your children’s feelings with compassion while offering them new options for keeping the holidays special, you are giving your children an important gift: the love and support they need to overcome the challenges of being a child of divorce.
Facing the Holidays Alone When You’re a Divorce Parent
One of the saddest consequences of divorce for parents are the alone-times when your children are visiting their other parent. Parents alone during the winter holidays need to get creative and absorbed in activities that are fulfilling for them.
A big challenge divorced parents face is feeling overwhelmed with grief or self-pity. Dwelling on what used to be, and on holiday memories of the past, takes us into a downward spiral that leads to more pain and sadness. Expressing these feelings can also make your children feel guilty about not being with you. That detracts from their own enjoyment of the holidays. And most times, it’s really out of the children’s control.
Finding new outlets for pleasure and fulfillment can be a blessing for parents as well as their children. Here are some suggestions:
- Create a Journal of holiday activities you can share with the kids when you next see them. This may include a travelogue of places you’ve visited, people you’ve met, movies you saw and activities you participated in. You can bring home a souvenir from each place as something to show and talk about with the kids when they visit such as a paper restaurant menu, post-cards, tee shirts, brochures, photos and videos.
- Send an email or text message of the day to the kids with a theme. Perhaps it’s the Staying Warm Tip of the Day, Best TV Show Choice of the Day, Favorite Candy Bar of the Day, Sledding Tip of the Day, Best Football Play of the Day, Favorite Frozen Yogurt Flavor of the Day – whatever interests you share together just to stay in touch.
- Step out of your self-focus. Join a Toy distribution or holiday meal drive over the holidays to help needy children and families in your community so you feel valued while connecting and bringing joy to other children.
- Make plans to see the same movie as your kids on the same day and then schedule a call to discuss the movie together and share the experience in your own way.
Be creative. Think out of the box in healthy ways and your children will appreciate you – and the holidays – without guilt, shame or sadness. You’ll also find you have a life of your own to live and much to offer, even when the children are not around!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! Her innovative approach guides parents in creating a personal family storybook, using fill-in-the-blank templates, family history and photos, as an effective way to break the divorce news with optimum results. For Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting visit //www.childcentereddivorce.com.
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