Divorce and the Holidays: Helping Kids Through Tough Times
Divorce can be hard on children, especially during the holidays. Let’s face it, the holidays are a stressful time of year for even the most intact families. There’s the whole matter of finding the perfect gift for everyone, mustering up enough energy to attend all the holiday parties and celebrations at school for the kids, deciding where to celebrate, and most importantly (to me anyway) figuring out what is going to be on the dinner menu.
Now imagine having to live through holiday stress in two different households? This would be overwhelming for most adults let alone children.
When people talk about divorce and the holidays, not a whole lot of positive things are mentioned. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. If both parents are willing to communicate with each other and put the needs of their children first, it is possible for children and their divorced parents to have a happy holiday.
Here are a few things you can do to peacefully celebrate the holidays post divorce:
• Discuss and make holiday plans with your ex WAY in advance. Don’t wait till the last minute to tell your ex that your family is having a Christmas Eve family photo shoot that your child must attend. This is an easy way to start an argument that could potentially derail your holiday plans. Decide where your child will spend the holidays ahead of the holiday season. For example, are you going to divvy up time on Christmas Day or are you going to let you ex have Christmas Day and you take Christmas Eve? Sometimes having the child’s input of what they want is helpful. However, be mindful that it can be stressful for the child to choose since they don’t want to disappoint either parent.
• Discuss gift giving. A friend of mine used to joke that the best part of her parents getting divorced is that she would get two of everything. Of course most children think this awesome. Heck, most adults think so too! However, overindulging your child can have long lasting negative impacts. Many children who are spoiled often become dependent, irresponsible, and socially immature adults. Talk to your ex about what you both plan on getting the kids. This will eliminate the likelihood of the kids getting too many gifts and also, it can help you avoid the whole gift one-up thing where parents try to out-do each other in the gift giving department.
• Share your holiday plans with your extended family. Let your family know what your plans are so that they can plan accordingly. You don’t want your child to feel as if they are missing out on everything because they are with this or that parent. Also, sometimes family members have a hard time coping with divorce. Even though you and your ex might be on good terms, your family might not feel the same. If you plan on having your ex around them for the holidays, talk to them and lay out your expectations. Let them know that it’s all about what is in the best interest of your child.
• Be willing to compromise. It can be hard making plans to be without your child on the holidays. However, this is not about you. Now is the time to put your children’s needs first and do what is best for them. This might mean that you have to sacrifice something that you really want. As long as it is for the benefit of your child, the sacrifice will always be worth it.
• Let go of guilty feelings. Some divorced parents feel guilty because they believe they are not giving their children an opportunity to celebrate the holidays like ‘normal’ families. They believe that somehow their divorce has ruined the holidays forever! Sure your family might celebrate the holidays differently post-divorce, but this does not mean that the holidays are now forever ruined. Different doesn’t have to be bad. Do yourself a favor and let go of the guilt and embrace your new normal. Your life will become a whole lot less stressful once you do.
• Let go of your expectations. Even though you want the holidays to unfold a certain way, understand that there are several variables outside of your control. Things might not go the way you envisioned and that’s OK! At the end of the day what matters is that your kids see you and your ex putting their needs ahead of your own.
I would love to hear any tips you can share to help divorced parents celebrate the holidays in peace!
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