Holidays can be difficult for children with divorced parents.
Such otherwise celebratory times often involve painful reminders of the past – or unfamiliar, potentially upsetting routines, as kids interact with the members of a new stepfamily. So while you may try to provide an extra dose of holiday cheer and family togetherness to overcome personal guilt, parents, don’t try to relive the past or overcompensate for the present; instead, strive to create a stress-free holiday celebration.
Successful scheduling forms the first step to making new and happy seasonal memories. Collaborate with both your ex-spouse and your kids in discussing wants and needs. Decide on the most important events, mapping times and dates. Respect that some children may have special requests that involve both parents, such as a holiday sports tournament, or just one parent, like a long-standing family tradition.
This time of year can also be troublesome for some adults, knowing their child is enjoying special moments with just the ex. Also, although splitting an important day may make sense logically and logistically, a midday change can disrupt celebratory spirit; both teenagers and parents may find it difficult to enjoy the moment knowing that in a few hours, the time will come to interrupt the festivities and switch to the other household.
Moreover, staying emotionally connected can be particularly difficult when family members are physically separated. Phone calls need to brim with good wishes and support; telling your son or daughter that you miss him or her, however, could cause guilt. Instead, ask what your kids are doing and tell them to enjoy the day. Parents, also make it a point to be with loved ones; teens will feel better knowing an absent mother or father is in a festive place and has the support of caring company.
Last, think creatively. Talk with your ex to avoid duplicate purchases, and consider splitting high-ticket gift costs. Create a new tradition that admits quality family time, such as a special breakfast or an afternoon of ice skating. The goal involves generating fresh experiences so old times won’t be missed as much.
At the holidays, typically, parents spend hours shopping bricks-and-mortar stores and surfing the net for the ultimate surprise. The best gift, though, remains supportive parents who place the highest priority on the emotional needs of their children. Presents generally become unfashionable or technologically outdated – but memories never go out of style.
Prior to going into private practice as a psychotherapist and learning-disabilities specialist, Russell Hyken, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.A., LPC, NCC, worked for more than 15 years as an English teacher, school counselor and school administrator. Visit him online at ed-psy.com.