Helping Your Kids Embrace the Holidays after a Recent Divorce


When you think of the holidays, you often picture happy families gathered around the table sharing a meal or opening presents on a cold winter morning, the snow falling gently outside. But as this excellent article from the Child Mind Institute shows, this Norman Rockwell-type of image is far from the family situations we have in today’s world. The holidays can be a stressful time -- not to mention sad -- especially if you are recently divorced. If you have children, the holidays can be particularly painful after a divorce. Here is some advice to help your kids deal with the pain of divorce and still manage to embrace the holidays.

Involve Your Kids

Help your children understand that even though you and your ex are separated, you still care about them, and your love for them will never change. Discuss with your kids how they wish to celebrate the holidays. encourages newly divorced parents to involve their children in designing the holiday plans. Maybe they want to celebrate the holidays at your house, at your ex’s home, or with both parents together. Of course, if there is still a great amount of tension and anger between you and your ex, it’s best if you don’t try to celebrate the holidays together with the kids. It will only lead to arguments and ruin the holiday for everyone.

Gifts and Traditions

Don’t think that you should shower your children with expensive gifts to compensate for the sadness they feel over the divorce. CNN offers a great article on focusing on what really matters during the holidays for divorced families here. Remember that the best thing you can do is give them the gift of your time. Also, do your best to keep some of the same traditions that you as a family enjoyed when you and your spouse were still married.

Your children will like participating in traditions that remind them of happier times, but it’s also important to do things that you may have never done before. Try working your way through this celebratory winter list to celebrate all the magical things about the season - from making snow angels in the front yard to making homemade soup. Slide down snowy hills on a sled -- even if it’s merely a garbage can lid! Make hot cocoa complete with marshmallows and whipped cream. Focus on engaging in fun, inexpensive activities that will create new memories for your children and help establish the new holiday normal. Look at this challenging moment as an opportunity to choose what activities you want to become the new holiday traditions for you and your kids.

You can also simply curl up on the couch and watch classic holiday movies, or pile into the car and drive around the neighborhood so you can admire holiday lights and decorations. As you can see, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars during the holidays to help your children enjoy this special season. Merely spending quality time with them and doing simple, fun activities can fill the whole family with joy.

Staying Positive

Avoid making negative comments about your ex. It’s understandable that you may feel bitter and angry, especially if he or she was the one that left or betrayed you. But venting to your kids about your ex-spouse’s faults will only cause them more anxiety and sadness.

If your children will spend the holidays with your ex, be careful not to make them feel guilty about being away from you. Instead, be upbeat about their time with the other parent.

Celebrating the holidays after a recent divorce is not only difficult for you, it’s difficult for your kids too. The pain and sadness they feel can interfere with the ability to enjoy the holidays. But that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy themselves during times of celebration. By being sensitive to how they wish to celebrate, spending quality time with them, and trying to stay positive, you can help your children move past their pain and learn to accept the new changes in their lives.

-Alexis Hall 

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