When you’re trying to maintain your sanity while parenting children out of two homes, stress levels between you and your ex often increase during the holiday season.
This time of year can also stir up a variety of feelings in your children. If it's their first Christmas following your divorce, keep in mind that the changed dynamic of the family may hit them intensely. While you can’t eliminate your children’s pain, the way you spend the first holiday after a divorce can positively impact your children’s perception of the family change.
Start by keeping your emotions in check. Your kids will take their cues from you. Make sure you pay attention to your feelings and needs throughout this holiday season. Take stock of where you may need a little extra emotional support and create a plan for meeting those needs.
Remember silence is not always golden. Talk with your children about how the holidays will look for your family this year. Explain what will be different and what will stay the same. Discuss with kids what they feel is most important and what they think will be the hardest. While it’s incredibly difficult to see your children struggle, it’s important not to avoid the conversation, which makes things more difficult for them.
Focus on creating meaning, not pressure. This year, focus on what matters the most so to avoid driving yourself into holiday burnout. Find ways to slow down. Minimize obligations and make quality time with your children your highest priority. Focus your energy on strengthening the relationship between yourself and your kids and their relationship with each other. Help them feel reassured that life will go on.
“Different” doesn’t have to mean “devastating.” While routines are necessary sometimes adopting the philosophy of “out with the old, in with the new” isn’t a bad idea. Instead of putting you and your children in a “just going through the motions” situation consider a new approach. Decide which holiday traditions are worth hanging on to and where there is room for change. Remember that you don't need to reshape the entire holiday. Rather, think about an activity you and your children can enjoy together like a movie, bowling or just spending the day in your PJs. Volunteering time to help the less fortunate is a wonderful way to both make new memories and teach your children about giving.
Make gift giving guiltless for kids. Children love doing nice things for the ones they love - especially during the holidays. Showing up to special events empty-handed makes children feel awkward and anxious. Consider going the extra mile by helping your kids buy gifts for your ex and other important family members, including step parents and ex-in-laws. Gift giving sends a message to kids about the joy of giving, and strengthens their sense of security.
If money is tight, think about helping children bake a batch of cookies, a favorite dessert or craft a special holiday card.