The holidays are a time of wonder and excitement for children. While parents do their best to keep this season bright and magical, the reality of a divorce can come crashing in. If you are recently divorced or separated from your spouse, your children may have anxiety about the upcoming holidays. Not having both parents together and splitting their time between families can cause stress and worry in any child. But there are steps you can take to calm their anxieties and help them look forward to the festivities.
Coordinate and Work Together During the Holidays
Every parent knows how important predictability and routine are for children. The first holiday season after a divorce is likely to upend them both. Help your child feel more secure by creating — and communicating — a clear schedule, explaining why things are happening when and how they are as appropriate.
Coordinating the children’s holiday schedule with your ex-spouse, and making sure the schedule is fair to both of you, is essential. In some cases, the regular schedule might have to be adjusted to make room for an event with one set of grandparents or a winter outing, for example. Just make sure the deficit of time with one parent is made up elsewhere. If there’s conflict or resentment between you about the changes, your children will pick up on it and feel worried, sad, or even as though they’re somehow at fault. Both parents should communicate the new schedule with the children in terms that are positive and easy for them to understand.
If your children will have to travel over the holidays, make sure your plans are settled well in advance. Think through every contingency as you work out the details. Before they depart, double-check the logistics of the trip, including flight information, pickup and drop off information, and what necessities and emergency information they need to bring. And don’t forget to send them off with items that will make them feel connected to you and your home: favorite toys or pajamas, for instance, or special snacks that only you know how to make.
Adjust and Adapt to New Traditions
Your children are probably used to spending the holidays with both parents together. Spending them with each parent separately is new and strange, and likely to be at least a little disruptive. Talk to them about their feelings and reassure them that while their family may now live a little differently, you and their other parent are still very much their family. Help them overcome the anxieties that come with splitting time between households by reassuring them that you’ll have lots of time together over the holidays.
It may also be helpful to remind your children that change isn’t always bad — that, in fact, sometimes it even makes things better. When you talk with them, affirm that they can keep the old traditions they love alive in new ways, and point out that now they can also create fun new ones. For example, if the family usually spends Christmas Eve at your ex’s parents’ house, suggest that while you won’t be with them at this event this year, you’ll be busy setting up for — surprise! — an afternoon of sledding the next day.
However you approach it, the most important thing is that your children know that they are loved, that they have not lost their family, and that you and their other parent are working together to make sure everyone has a fun holiday season. Acknowledge that splitting time between households can be tough, but show them that it doesn't have to be a bad thing. Help your kids see the positives in the situation and focus on creating new traditions they can get excited about. With a bit of planning and coordination, the holidays can be a fun and stress-free time for everyone involved.
Create A Better Environment For Your Children
While separation and divorce can cause stress and anxiety in children, so can living with unhappy parents. Help ease the transition into post-divorce life for your children by being understanding and flexible as they try to navigate this new reality, especially during the holidays. Above all, let your children know that you, their other parent, and the whole extended family are still there for them.
If you’re contemplating a divorce or separation, talk to the Miller Law Group. We believe in negotiating an amicable resolution to your divorce that minimizes conflict and stress on a couple's children. Contact our office today and speak with an attorney about your legal options when filing for divorce.