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It's Our First Holiday Season After the Divorce: How Do We Make It Easier on the Kids?

The holiday season is usually thought of as being a time to exchange gifts with loved ones, and gathering with friends and family. For families transitioning through a divorce or separation, the holidays can mark a melancholy season. What once was a time to spend with family has now taken on a new form.  For divorcing or separated couples with children, the holidays are now a time where the children are being shuttled to and from different parents' homes instead of spending the whole time with both parents together.

While we are not therapists, we recognize the stress that is unique to divorcing couples with children. Family therapist Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW, wrote on Family Education's blog about how parents can approach the first separate holiday season with their children. Below is his advice and highlights:


  • Show them you understand their feelings and worries: "I know you're going to feel sad sometimes this Christmas and maybe a little angry and worried too. It's going to feel different not being together like we have been. Things will be different this year."
  • Offer them encouraging words: "You know, we all know how to have a good time together at Christmas. Your dad and I are going to think about all those good times, and we'd like you both to think back to them too. Even though it won't be the same, I know we can all enjoy each other at Christmas time and that your dad and I can each do some fun things with you over vacation. It's not going to be the same but we're going to make it good."
  • Be cordial with your ex over the holidays. Your behavior during this traditional family time can provide your kids with some hope that you two can and will be cordial with each other in the future.
  • Talk with your ex about gifts so your children won't be overindulged or let down.
  • Your kids are old enough to ask directly how they want to celebrate the holidays, given your changed family structure. Asking them what they want to do can lead to a natural discussion of what they're thinking and feeling.
  • Create some new holiday traditions that your kids can look forward to doing with you. Encourage your ex to create his own different traditions as well.
  • Keep all extended family, grandparents, etc. involved during the holidays (even if it can only be through email, cards, phone calls). They are still an integral part of your children's lives and provide them with continuity and security in the face of your changed family structure.
  • If you have done so before, continue to help your children select a present for your ex.
  • Don't communicate negative feelings about your ex through your words or behavior. Your kids will be taking their cues from the both of you.



Read more on FamilyEducation: http://life.familyeducation.com/divorce/holidays-and-seasonal-events/40637.html#ixzz1hCQOS0h0

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