Helping Children Through the Holidays After the Divorce

A divorce is an extraordinarily difficult process for everyone involved. Typically, the stress is exacerbated as the holidays draw near. Family traditions may never be the same, and this can be a source of considerable anxiety for dads and kids. With time and patience, it’s possible to develop new traditions, or make modifications to existing ones, so that everyone can enjoy the holiday season.

The best way dads can help their kids through the holiday season is by having a parenting agreement in place. This agreement should be detailed to ensure that there is minimum contention and misunderstanding. Within the agreement should be guidelines for how the children’s time will be divided among the parents for the holidays. For instance, the agreement might stipulate that the kids spend half of Thanksgiving break with each parent. Christmas Eve may be spent with mom, while Christmas day is spent with dad. Next year, the Christmas festivities will be reversed, with Christmas Eve happening at dad’s house. It is these kinds of agreements that keep everyone happier and knowing what to expect.

Knowing what to expect means planning ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute to communicate with the kids and your ex about how you’d like to spend the holidays. Give the children’s mother plenty of time to think over your plans and respond appropriately. This usually produces a more amicable, favorable response, and helps promote your kids’ happiness.

As you are making plans, communicate openly with your children about their needs and wants for the upcoming celebrations. Patiently explain that while some family traditions will remain largely unchanged, it is necessary for others to undergo a transformation. It’s natural for children to resist some of your proposals, so be open and flexible. Ask them how they would like to spend the holidays. Be aware of local festivities that you and your children might enjoy together and suggest these as a new family tradition that is just for you and them.

Generosity and kindness are always welcome traits, and this is especially true during the hectic holiday season. Conflict between ex-spouses sometimes flares at this time, despite our best intentions. For the sake of your children, do your best to be amicable with your spouse and to create solutions that are positive. This means avoiding circumstances that appear to force your children to choose sides. Give them time to talk about presents they received from their mom’s family and celebrations they attended with them as well. This lets kids know that it is not disloyal to have enjoyed time with mom’s family. Instead, let them know that it’s great they are enjoying the festivities with both sides of their extended family.

The holidays are especially important to children, who may look forward to these celebrations for months in advance. If you are planning ahead and communicating these plans to your children, then it is of the utmost importance that you keep your promises. Saying a month in advance that you will take your children to the town’s tree lighting ceremony is one thing. Actually following through on this promise is quite another matter. It reinforces your children’s concepts of security and continuity, things which they greatly need now when everything seems to be in a state of flux. Keeping your holiday promises reinforces their faith that they are still an important part of the family.

Lastly, take care of yourself during the holiday season. You may spend more time on your own than you are accustomed to, and it can be easy to fall into the trap of anxiety and depression. Plan ahead for those times when you are likely to be by yourself. Get together with friends or family to make the holiday season memorable and keep yourself upbeat and looking forward to spending quality time with your kids.