Holiday Survival Tips for Divorced Families
By Monique Engelbrecht
Play Well Live Well Kids Life Coaching
Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa
It was that time of year again where families all around the world got things ready for the festive season. It was a long year and you couldn’t wait for that break before the New Year. There was only one challenge you were faced with- the divorce or separation had inevitably dictated your new holiday traditions. Your family would not be spending Christmas the same as last year. Mom and Dad would not be around the same Christmas tree opening gifts with the kids, you would not be looking for Santa footprints together, or eat a Christmas meal around the same table. With an emotional year behind you, the last thing you needed was a Festive season with conflict, confusion, misunderstandings, and miscommunication. It had been just as tough on the kids. With the holidays approaching, the kids were probably thinking the same thing you were- what happens now? As their parent, you need to first understand that your kids come first. Your child may have felt torn, angry, and perhaps guilty if they didn’t do what you wanted to do over the holidays. So instead of fighting for what you want, take a step back, be the grown up, and consider your child’s experience through it all.
So how do you make next time a festive season for everyone?
I don’t mean to burst your excitement, but there is no fixed answer to this. Each family is different and you need to establish a routine and/or tradition that works best for you and your family. There are many factors to take into consideration when planning for the holidays i.e. location of parents, age of children, finances too name a few.
Nevertheless, here are some general tips you can consider when it comes to planning for special holidays.
• First and foremost, be patient and flexible. The best gift you and the other parent can give the kids would be to work together and be considerate of each other’s circumstances and desires for the holiday.
• As parents, work together to try alleviate as much stress from the kids as possible. The kids have already endured a disruption in their lives. Don’t let your anger and hurt flow over into your child’s mental state. This time is just as stressful for them.
• Practice good communication amongst each other so everyone is heard and considered. Hear what the kids would like, give them a space to talk about what they are thinking and experiencing so they don’t feel forced to do things they may not want to do.
• If either parents have moved far apart and finances are tight to let the kids travel for their visit, make use of technology and open presents together.
• Embrace a positive mindset. If you have agreed to having the kids on rotation basis over the holidays, don’t focus on the time you don’t have with them. Use the time to do you.
• Avoid competition with the other parent during this festive season. Agree to a budget for gifts and stick to it. Don’t try one-up your ex-spouse to try win your children’s affection.
• All a child wants is love, fun, and memories. Make that your number one focus without involving material things.
• Communicate with the other parent well before the time so you can plan ahead. This will help kids feel more secure and less stressed or confused.
• If you and the other parent are on good terms, consider spending the holiday together? This is not easy for most people, especially if the divorce was recent as emotions are still raw and kids are still rattled. Perhaps over time, as all things heal, it could be beneficial for your kids to still see the joy shared by everyone.
• Start new traditions. There are no fixed rules in how to celebrate the holidays as a divorced family. Do what works best for you, the other parent, but most importantly your kids. They determine your new holiday traditions. Embrace it.
Your family is entering a new way of life and as stressful and confusing as it may be, it does not have to be so daunting. You can do what is best for your kids to give them a holiday season filled with laughter, memories, and loads of love.