The holidays right after a divorce can be painful and confusing for children. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July and other special days are often ones children associate with joyful memories and good times with family and friends.
Divorce overturned the world as they knew it completely, and now the holidays approach, and they may not know how to handle them. While parents may not be able to completely shelter their offspring from the effects of the divorce, they can take steps to help them continue to see the holidays as a beautiful time.
1. Encourage open communication
Co-parents need to be in complete agreement about the holiday arrangements. Children can often sense when the people around them conflict. The co-parents also need to be flexible about changes and communicate frequently and clearly about any delays or changes. It also helps to let the kids know about the holiday plans in advance, including where they will be and who they will spend time with. Clear communication can alleviate uncertainty and provide a sense of stability.
2. Blend traditions
Maintaining some consistent holiday traditions can provide a sense of normalcy and comfort for children. It reminds them that not everything has changed and helps relieve any fears that everything they once knew will disappear. However, it is also important to introduce new ones, to help them adjust to their new lives. By blending new and old traditions, parents show their children that life goes on without erasing precious memories and can still bring joy to their lives.
3. Focus on quality time
Emphasize the importance of spending quality time with each parent rather than a great quantity of time. Encourage meaningful activities that create lasting memories, such as crafting, cooking or engaging in outdoor activities. This reassures children that their parents still love and have time for them.
4. Accept emotional expression
It is natural for children to experience a range of emotions during the holidays after a divorce, including sadness or frustration. By encouraging them to talk about their feelings and validating their emotions, parents offer them a safe place to simply feel and recover. According to Parenting for Brain, dismissing children’s emotions can result in a higher likelihood of them developing mental health problems and decreased emotional intelligence, including underdeveloped empathy, both of which can extend far into their lives.
Even if parents put all their energy into making the holidays good for their children, it may not turn out perfect. However, their effort can make the post-divorce holidays easier for their children to accept and enjoy.