Parents who are spending the first Christmas in two households because of a separation or divorce will discover that this time of year stirs up lots of different feelings for your children; and this being their first Christmas following your separation or divorce, keep in mind the loss of the family may hit them extremely hard. Family traditions as they know it will no longer exist in one household the question become; who will do what and when. What parents do not want to do is to make Christmas a competition.
While you can’t take away the pain your children feel, how you spend the first holiday after a separation or divorce can really impact children’s perception about family change. Remember to keep your emotions in check and you can do this if both parents remember that Christmas is about their children and not about them. Yes, of course the non- resident parent will feel a little left out because they did not get the children on Christmas morning to open gifts. This problem can be solved if one parent celebrates on Christmas Eve with grandparents, aunts and uncles. You may not have done that before but you can start a new tradition. The other parent will get Christmas day. I am only suggesting this for the very first Christmas after a divorce moving forward the children will become accustomed to two households so it would be easier to celebrate with each parent taking turns. Or this can become your new family tradition so your children do not have to feel guilty if one parent is alone.
Too often parents will get caught up in dividing up the holidays and what to get the children and at times because of guilt the parents tend to want to out do each other. Please don’t. One of the best things you can do to help your children is to use this time to rebuild a sense of family. The children need to be reassured that life will go on with out a lot of interruptions in family beliefs, values, and traditions. While your child’s perceived loss of ‘family’ may hit them very hard during this special time of year there are several ways you can help your children manage the experience in a healthy way.
Here are a few tips to navigate the holiday season so that your children are not stressed and can enjoy spending time with both parents. Remember you are still Mom and Dad.
1) Don’t focus on what is fair.
If you keep in mind that the holiday are going to be hard for you and your children so try to be flexible when it comes to the holiday schedule and how it is shared between house hold including grandparents. Remember what may feel fair for mom and dad may not feel that way to your children, so take your cues from your children. If however, one parent has the children over Christmas them follow tip number two.
2) Do not spend your first after separation or divorce Christmas alone
It can be tempting to become a bear and crawl into a cave and hibernate during your first holiday alone – especially if your ex has the kids. However, I urge you to resist the temptation. There’s no reason to punish yourself, I’m not saying that you don’t need time alone. This is a good time to decrease your stress. I’m just suggesting that instead of spending all of the holiday season alone make an effort to go out and spend some time with family or friends. I promise that you’ll get a different perspective of your first holidays as a re-singled person if you open yourself up to even a little fun celebrating the holidays with others. You can invite other single divorce people who do not have family or who might be alone to a potluck dinner. Talk to your friends and let them know that you will be alone so you can get an invitation to their Christmas dinner. Or if you are brave enough go on a vacation an all-inclusive by yourself, take some time to relax and rejuvenate you never know who you will run into just do not spend your first Christmas alone.
3) Talk to your children
Be sure you talk with your children and explain to them what the holiday will look like for your family this year. Have a discussion about what will be different and what will remain the same. Although it’s incredibly difficult to have this discussion it would be helpful if you do because you do not want to see your children struggle, avoiding the conversation often makes things harder for children. Regardless of what you do this season, do your best to minimize potential conflicts and let your children’s needs guide your holiday planning.
4) Making new family traditions
While traditions are important some times adopting an “out with the old” and ” in with the new” philosophy isn’t a bad idea. Instead of putting you or your children in a situation where you’re just going through the motions, consider a different approach. Ask yourself, which holiday traditions are worth hanging on to and where there might be room for change. Remember you don’t have to re-shape the whole holiday. You can be creative include the children in the decision making and think about doing one thing different that you and your children can enjoy together. (i.e. like spending the day watching Christmas movies in your pajamas, eating breakfast for dinner one night, volunteering time at the mission serving up Christmas meals or going on a Christmas Vacation)
5) Make gift giving painless for children
Keep in mind that children love doing special things for people they care about especially during the holidays. When they show up to special events empty-handed they will often feel awkward and embarrassed . While you are no longer married consider going the extra mile and help your children buy gifts for your ex and other important family members. Your children will be giving gifts to their teachers, and coaches, so have then give gifts also to your exes significant other because that person may be participating in the child’s care during visits. It sends a message to children about the joy of giving, in the long run it strengthens their sense of security, and they will not have to feel caught in the middle of adult issues. If you are strapped for money then help your children make a gift or bake some cookies. You could also try the dollar store and purchase something as simple as a one-dollar potholder or coffee mug.
Another very important issues are to coordinate holiday gifts with parents. Have the children make a list and parents should choose a gift of at least equal value so there appears to be no competition. Also keep in mind that the gift is to the child and there should not be any restrictions on the gift to as to where that gift should live. Work with your ex-spouse in a co-operative manner. Share with each other the details of what you are buying the children for Christmas and how you will be celebrating. Christmas really is all about the children and the more you and your ex can work together the more likely your children will enjoy their holiday.
Another important issue is the parent who has become absent after a divorce, a special Christmas wish goes out to you and I would like absent parents to consider getting in touch with their children this year even if it is just to send a card wishing them well. Think about it no child should have to spend Christmas with out its parents. I hope that these tips are helpful divorce is difficult but as parents we can all make it easy on your children because cc+m-Business-Card-3 it is still a parent responsibility to raise a happy, healthy and well-adjusted child. Happy Holidays!
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