The holiday season is eagerly anticipated by most of us and it is great opportunity for family gatherings, but it can also be a time where things can get a bit strained if you are going through a divorce.
Families who have been through a divorce or are experiencing a separation right now, can struggle with the holidays and how to approach the parenting arrangements in the best way possible.
Always talk to your kids
Your kids are often a lot more intuitive than we sometimes realize or give them credit for, especially the younger ones, so it often never pays to avoid the subject of how you are going to co-parent the holidays.
Young children can often hide their own feelings and anxieties in order to protect your feelings and it is much better to share a conversation with your kids about what they most want from the holidays and to encourage them to share their feelings about what is happening to the family as a result of a divorce situation.
It is a never a good idea to say anything negative about the other parent, so keep it neutral and just focus on making sure they enjoy their time over the holidays and that they understand that you love them just as much as ever and that your separation doesn’t change that.
Routine is good
A classic mistake made by some parents is to try and change things over the holidays in order to try and make it extra special for their children.
More often than not, children are much more comfortable and happy with their regular routine and rituals, so any change to this can actually have a detrimental rather than a positive impact on their happiness.
If you all get some new matching nightwear every year for example, then it makes sense to order a new seasonal pair along with your own men and women’s flannel pajamas, so that it feels like you are keeping to your theme.
If you try as much as possible to keep the same routines that you have always had, despite the obvious complications of no longer being a couple, this is often better for children who are not so stressed if they have a routine and know what to expect during the holiday season.
Thoughts and feelings
Even if you do everything possible to try to keep things normal for your children, the change in the family dynamic as a result of divorce and separation will almost inevitably stir up some emotional turmoil for the young ones.
It is not unusual for a child to have feelings of guilt or even anger about the situation and despite the obvious fact that it is not their fault, they can feel like they are responsible for the situation.
It is best not to avoid this subject if you see that your child is struggling with their thoughts and feelings, so take the opportunity to reassure them that your divorce is not their fault and is an adult problem which has not been caused by anything they have done.
Celebrating the holidays while going through a divorce is always going to be a test, but if you approach it in the right way and with a positive outlook, there is no reason it won’t go as well as you want it to.
Jude Dean is a child psychologist. He loves to write about his experiences with children on the Internet. You can find his articles on many family websites.