By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
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 you and your children keep in the best spirits throughout the holiday season.
Be Attentive and Compassionate
Talk to your children about how the holidays will be the same and different this year. Listen, and don’t lecture. Let them vent about their feelings, regrets and frustrations. Acknowledge what they are expressing to you and show empathic 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 over the holidays.
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.
Be sure to acknowledge your children’s feelings with compassion while offering them new options for keeping the holidays special. In that way, you are giving your children an important gift: the love and support they need to overcome the challenges of being a child of divorce.
Be Mindful About Your Own Life As a Divorced 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 can be depressing. It 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.
So 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, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She is also author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — With Love! To get Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting and other valuable resources on divorce and co-parenting issues, visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.