By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
One of the saddest consequences of divorce for parents is the alone-time when your children are visiting their other parent. While short-term periods when the kids are away can be a welcome respite for an overscheduled single parent, that’s not always the case. For many parents the intervals between seeing the children can be long and lonely. This is especially so during the holiday season which can become a particularly challenging time – made even more difficult when friends and neighbors are busy with their own family gatherings.
It’s really important for parents who are alone during the winter holidays to get creative and absorbed in activities that you find personally fulfilling. This time of year can also be an opportunity to reflect on meeting your own needs and finding friends and activities that bring joy into your life on a personal level rather than a parental level.
Among the greatest challenges divorced parents face is avoiding depression and self-pity. When overwhelmed by a sense of isolation, or feeling undervalued, parents often make poor decisions. One of the most common is sending messages that we later regret when communicating with our children. It’s not difficult to bury your hurt in comments designed to make your children feel guilty about not being with you, despite the fact that most times those decisions are not really within their control.
Telling your kids you miss them is a natural response. Saying I wish you were home with me and not with your other parent burdens your child unnecessarily with the need to protect a parent who’s fragile and hurting.
Turning toward your support group of friends can be really helpful when these feelings arise. Seeking out a counselor or divorce coach can also provide advice and new resources for creating alternative holiday traditions.
Here are some other ways you can stay in the lives of your children despite the distance between you.
• Create a Journal of holiday activities that you can later share with the kids. This might take the form of a travelogue of places you’ve explored, people you’ve visited, movies you saw and other activities you’ve participated in.
• Bring home a souvenir from each place as something to show and talk about with the kids on their next visit. This might include paper restaurant menus, movie ticket stubs, tee shirts, colorful brochures, post-cards, hats, pens, etc.
• Send an email or text message “of the day” to the kids with a theme: such as the Staying Warm Tip of the Day, favorite Candy Bar of the Day, Sledding Tip of the Day, Favorite Frozen Yogurt Flavor of the Day – just to keep in touch.
• Join a toy or food distribution drive over the holidays to help needy children in your community or an animal shelter so you feel valued while interacting with and bringing joy to other children and families.
• 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.
• Plan a live Face-time type of call with the kids so you can see the decorations and gifts where they are and interact with them real-time!
Of course developing a cooperative relationship with your former spouse is essential for the success of these strategies. But it’s worth the effort. Collaborative co-parenting is a plus for both parents over the years ahead – and a positive role model for your children. So reach out for the support you need to negotiate the respectful co-parenting relationship you desire so your children can thrive after divorce.
Be creative. Think out of the box in healthy ways and your children will appreciate you without guilt, sadness or shame. This is one of the greatest gifts any parent can give to their children – the gift of enjoying their childhood without the burden of parental divorce issues weighing them down.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right as well as her coaching services and other valuable resources about divorce and parenting issues, visit www.childcentereddivorce.com.
All rights reserved. © Rosalind Sedacca