The holiday season can be challenging for children of divorce – especially during the first few years. Parents need to be diligent in creating new family traditions and activities designed to replace the memories of holidays past. Here are some ways to help your kids have a wonderful holiday season this year, despite changes to the family structure.
• Show Empathy and Compassion
When talking 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. Don’t refute or deny what they are saying. Instead, show compassionate understanding. Some kids will hold their feelings in to protect you. Reassure them that it’s okay to talk about their sadness as well as anxiety about what the holidays will be like this year.
Remind your children that what they are feeling is okay and normal. Be there for them with reassurance and hugs. Let them know some activities will remain the same. Others will change. Help them understand that much of life will go on in the same way, despite divorce. Also, suggest that change is a natural part of everyone’s life and it’s easier for everyone when we embrace it.
• Model Responsible Behavior With Your Ex:
Studies show that children whose divorced parents get along with one another have an easier time adapting to divorce. So talk to your ex about how you can cooperate in giving your kids a happy holiday season. 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 make the drop-off transitions peaceful and harmonious. Never bad-mouth your ex to the children, make kids 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 around your children so they can enjoy being a kid, especially during the holidays.
• Help Create Wonderful 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 your kids have something special to look forward to. When you replace old memories with new ones, the holidays become days to look forward to again. If they can do the same in their other parent’s home, they get an even fuller experience of holiday celebration!
So acknowledge your kids’ feelings with compassion – and also give them new options for keeping the holiday spirit. Remember, the most valuable gift you can give to your children is: the love and support they need to overcome the challenges of divorce during the holidays and every day!