After Separation and Divorce: How to Make Merry for the Sake of Your Kids

Posted by on Oct 15, 2015 in Couples Counseling For One, Healthy Separation and/or Divorce Counseling | Comments Off on After Separation and Divorce: How to Make Merry for the Sake of Your Kids

The holidays can be a tough time for families who’ve been through a separation or divorce. Depending on your co-parenting agreement, one or both of you may be without the children for portion of the season. There may also be fewer financial resources available than when you all shared a household.

Of course, no one really says, “How can I make the kids miserable over the holidays.” Yet, many parents seem to have a difficult time keeping the season bright.

The temptation to interact emotionally, fight, or behave in a hurtful manner can make the holidays  memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Here are some tips for helping your kids make happy holiday memories, following divorce or separation:

  • Set the right tone.

How you deal with your ex will send your kids a clear message about how to manage stressful situations. Avoid doing or saying things that will make your kids feel guilty about the change in family traditions, or for spending time apart. Saying things like, “It’s too bad that we can’t visit the cousins because you’ll be spending time with your dad this year,” only puts undue pressure on your children.

Encourage your children to enjoy the season. Positively frame the new changes for your kids. Try saying something like “ Wow! You get to have two holiday celebrations this year! Two families love you, not just one.”

  • Sort out the details in advance.

If you are able to speak civilly together, discuss any changes you’d like to make to the holiday schedule outlined in your decree. Text or email the changes you’ve agreed upon to avoid confusion. It’s very important that both parents and children knows what to expect, and can plan accordingly.

Lay out who’s getting what, which gifts will come from Santa, the budget, and the number of gifts you’d like to purchase. Resist the urge to outdo each other, purchase duplicates, or win the kids’ affections with exorbitant gifts. By the same token, accept that you and your ex may have different ideas about which toys or games are acceptable in your respective homes.

  • Rework your family holiday traditions.

It’s not a good idea to scrap every holiday tradition after divorce or separation. However, it’s not helpful to cling to all the old holiday activities either. Arrive at an agreeable combination of the old, fun times and new traditions with your kids. Talk to your kids, ask them what they would like to keep, then determine what is possible. Kids really just need to be reassured that holiday traditions will continue and are not lost to the divorce or separation.

  • Don’t force more togetherness than you can handle.

Some former spouses or partners can spend Christmas morning together, or gather for a festive meal, without incident. Others definitely cannot. It’s okay either way. There’s no reason to beat yourself up if you’re not comfortable spending the holidays together. If you can’t peaceably celebrate with the other parent and their family, it is definitely in your child’s best interest not to do it.

  • Pick your battles.

If the other parent absolutely refuses to work with you, it’s definitely better to bow out, and let your ex “win” for the kids’ sake. Acquiescing doesn’t make you a doormat. Not fighting those battles is good for your kids. There is likely enough time during the holiday season to get your time with the kids, even if you need to celebrate holidays twice. It may take a while to see the benefits of this approach, but your adult children will one day appreciate your attempts to keep the season enjoyable for them.

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