When parents divorce, it's always hard on the kids. And so you try to minimize the pain and reduce the chaos brought about by new routines and schedules. But that doesn't prepare you for the challenges of facing your first holiday season. Or the many seasons yet to come.
That takes a great amount of empathy and creativity along with a willingness to put yourself in your children's shoes to help them address their emotions and cope with memories from the past that trigger pain and sadness.
As parents it's up to us to create new traditions and activities that can replace the memories of family holidays in the past. Here are some suggestions on how to help your children through the holiday season in the best possible spirits.
• Show compassion:
Talk to your children about the holidays. Listen, rather than lecture, and let them vent about their feelings, regrets and frustrations. Acknowledge what they are expressing to you and be understanding. Be aware that some children will hold their feelings in so as not to protect you. Reassure them that it's okay to talk about their sadness as well as apprehension about what they will experience this year.
Remind your children that what they are feeling is natural and normal. Be there for them with reassurance and hugs. Also let them know that some activities will still be part of their holiday celebrations so they understand that much of life continues in the same way, despite divorce.
• Model Responsible Behavior With Your Ex:
Studies show that children whose divorced parents get along with one another adapt much easier to the divorce. So talk to your ex about giving your children a happy holiday season in every possible way. If you can both spend some family time together with the children, without discord, they will appreciate your efforts. If you can't, at least strive to make the drop-off experience peaceful and harmonious. Never bad-mouth your ex to the children, make them your messenger or have them spy for you at their other parent's home. Model your best, most respectful and mature interactions with your ex in front of your children so they can enjoy their childhood, especially at this time of year.
• Start Creating Wonderful New Memories:
This year will lay the foundation for many holidays to come. So think about new ways to celebrate, new places to visit, new foods to prepare. By creating a fresh set of traditions you will give your children something to look forward to. By replacing old memories with the new, you can make the holidays special again for them. And if they do the same in their other parent's home, they can enjoy an even fuller experience of celebrating the holidays.
On November 13, I'll be providing more tips and insights on a special free Support Call, Surviving The Holiday Season. I'll be interviewed by Divorce Coach Adina Laver. The call starts at 12:10 pm ET. We'll cover ways to talk about the holidays with your former spouse ... ideas for dividing up time and gift giving between the two of you and your extended families ... how to start new family traditions ... ways to include your children in the decision-making ... how to reconnect and have fun even when thing are difficult ... and more. To register visit: www.mainlinedivorcemediator.com
By acknowledging your children's feelings with compassion while offering them new options for keeping the holidays special, you are giving your children an important gift: the love and support they need to overcome the challenges of being a child of divorce.