One of the saddest consequences of divorce for parents is the alone time when your children are visiting their other parent. While short-term periods when the kids are away can be a welcome respite for an overscheduled single parent, for other parents, the intervals between seeing the children can be long and lonely. The holiday season can be a particularly challenging time, especially when friends and neighbors are busy with their own family gatherings.
It's really important for parents who are alone during the winter holidays to get creative and absorbed in activities are personally fulfilling. This can also be an opportunity to reflect on meeting your own needs and finding friends and activities that bring joy into your life.
One of the greatest challenges for divorced parents is avoiding self pity. Overwhelmed by a sense of isolation or feeling undervalued as a parent can often result in making poor choices when communicating with your children. It's not difficult to bury your hurt in comments designed to make your children feel guilty about not being with you, despite the fact that most times those decisions are not really within their control.
Turning toward your support group of friends can be really helpful when these feelings arise. Seeking out a counselor or divorce coach can also provide advice and new resources for creating alternative holiday traditions.
Here are some other ways you can stay in the lives of your children despite the distance between you.
- Create a journal of holiday activities that you can later share with the kids. This might take the form of a travelogue of places you've explored, people you've visited, movies you saw and other activities you participated in. You can even bring home a souvenir from each place as something to show and talk about with the kids on their next visit, such as paper restaurant menus, movie ticket stubs, t-shirts, colorful brochures, post-cards, hats, pens, etc.
- Send an email or text message "of the day" to the kids with a theme: such as the Staying Warm Tip of the Day, favorite Candy Bar of the Day, Sledding Tip of the Day, Favorite Frozen Yogurt Flavor of the Day -- just to keep in touch.
- Join a toy or food distribution drive over the holidays to help needy children in your community so you feel valued while interacting with and bringing joy to other children.
- Make plans to see the same movie as your kids on the same day and then schedule a call to discuss the movie together and share the experience in your own way.
Be creative. Think out of the box in healthy ways and your children will appreciate you without guilt, sadness or shame. This is one of the greatest gifts any parent can give to their children -- the gift of enjoying their childhood without the burden of parental divorce issues weighing them down.