By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
For divorcing and divorced parents the holiday season can be especially stressful, pressure-filled and overwhelming. But you’re not alone. For children facing their parents’ divorce or who are experiencing their first holiday season post-divorce, this can be an especially tough time of year.
For that reason all parents and extended family members who want to protect children caught in the consequences of a divorce, need to be especially mindful and compassionate during the weeks ahead.
It doesn’t take much to give a child or a teen a joyous experience spending time with you. You don’t need expensive gifts or trips to exotic places. Doing things together is what counts most. Sledding, ice skating, baking, creating crafts, watching movies, visiting a children’s museum, taking a short railroad trip, building a snowman, making a family video, adopting a pet from a local shelter, volunteering to wrap gifts for the needy – these are all experiences that create positive bonding memories filled with love, laughter and warmth.
For children coping with divorce and its aftermath, our challenge as co-parents 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 get through the holiday season in the best possible spirits.
- Listen with compassion:
Talk to your children about the holidays ahead. Listen, rather than lecture, and let them vent about their feelings, regrets, fears and frustrations. Acknowledge what they are telling you and be understanding. Understand that some children will hold their feelings in to protect you. Reassure them that it’s okay to talk about their sadness as well as apprehension about the changes they may 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 so they understand that much of life continues in the same way, despite divorce.
- Role Model Cooperative Behavior With Your Ex:
Studies show that children whose divorced parents get along with one another adapt much more easily 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 interactions with your ex in front of your children so they can enjoy their childhood, especially at this time of year.
- Keep Grandparents and Other Family Members in the Holidays:
Divorce shouldn’t rob your children of connections with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others “from the other side,” especially if they have been part of your family’s traditions. Encourage communication with extended family who care about your kids and treat them with the respect and digity they, too, deserve, despite the divorce.
- Lay the Foundation for Positive New Holiday 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.
Have questions about this important topic? Visit our Facebook page and post your questions there. I’ll respond and encourage others to participate as well.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She is also the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! and co-parenting programs. For Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right, her coaching services, expert interviews and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.