The holiday season is expected to be a time of reunion: we reconnect with relatives and friends who live far away, making this time of year special for many.
But for children whose parents divorced in the last year or so, the holidays can only heighten the feelings of confusion and guilt they have been dealing with. A now-smaller family gathering may be a reminder that the parents are no longer together.
Children often react to this stressful situation by trying to avoid the festivities, becoming physically ill or depressed. Parents who want their children to enjoy the rest of the holiday season may consider these tips, as provided by the Virginia author of a children's book about divorce:
- If you and your former spouse are still at odds, put aside the anger and harsh words for the holidays.
- Try to divide holidays so that the children get to spend part of the season with each parent. For example, they can do Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Mom, then Christmas dinner and New Year's Eve with Dad. Holding onto some old traditions, while establishing new ones, can be highly valuable for the children.
- Share the cost of some of the gifts, and let the kids know they are from "Mom and Dad."
- Celebrating together at family events after a divorce can be very tricky, but it is possible. Stay away from difficult topics, avoid drinking alcohol and make sure the kids understand that just because Mom and Dad are at a holiday party together, it does not mean they are getting back together.
- As always, avoid bad-mouthing your ex around your children.