3 Ways You Can Make Sure Children of Divorce Have a Shot at Happiness…Even During the Holidays!
For families, divorce can present devastating challenges especially for the children involved. Unsurprisingly, divorce becomes no easier when it prefaces major holidays. Newly separated parents may feel great remorse when trying to pick up the pieces and resume a sense of normalcy in their homes for themselves, and for their children. If you are getting divorced, or already are…here is some important advice to keep the peace and have fun during the holidays.
1. Focus on Your Relationship with Your Child by Offering Constant Acceptance and Affection.
Even for a parent, it may be hard to readjust the holiday script after a divorce. You may keep old expectations of how things were before the divorce. Here, it is important to remember that you are in uncharted territory and having unrealistic expectations can get hopes up and crush spirits for both you and your children. You may expect your partner to pull their weight and both parties work together to keep their children happy—but this too can lead to further disappointment and even conflict. From here on out, you need to base your actions on developing the relationship between your children and you. What many parents struggle with, is understanding that the old relationship you had with your children has been shattered, and once broken, you can’t really recreate what once was there. You need to focus on building your new relationship with your children. This new frame of mind will help you as you trudge forward through the holidays.
Learning to “love and be loved” after divorce is afundamental part of being a happy human for all of us. Affection needs to be both broadly defined and responsive to your particular children’s needs andpreferences.
Do your children love and appreciate physical affection? Not every family is the “cuddly” type, so be aware of the differences and uniqueness of each of your children. Give them warmth andaffection that is meaningful to them – not that which comes easiest to you.
While hugs, kisses and reassuring pats on the back are certainly meaningful demonstrations of love, there are a lot of non-physical actions that you can express to show your continued parental loveafter a divorce:
- Relax on the couch and read or watch TV together
- Sit with them and talk about their day (be sure your focus is on them, not on prepping dinner)
- Build or create something together, like a puzzle or model
- Put a love note in a lunch box or surprise them with a note on the bathroom mirror that they’ll see as soon as they get up
- Acknowledge the characteristics that make them unique – not just those that replicate traits you like about yourself
- When kids leave for overnight camp or college, hide small gifts and notes in their luggage
- Thank them – even when they’re just doing their chores
- Tell them, “I’m looking forward to seeing you after school,” so they come to know you think of them even when they’re not around
Just remember to keep consistent with your relationship building. Building strong parental warmth and affection is anall-the-time activity.
2. Keep Busy and Create New Traditions.
Now that you understand the frame of mind needed to take on the holiday season, it’s time to start building that new relationship with your children. You need to understand that your children are going through as much turmoil as you feel,if not even more so. The best remedy for your children, and even yourself, will be to have fun during the holidays. Caroling, crafting, playing in the snow—anything that allows both you and your children to move around and keepyour mind and body as busy as possible. Now might be a good time to create new holiday traditions to share with your children.
One idea in particular we love, is to tell stories and/or participate in activities related to your cultural background. For example, if you have a Celtic heritage, you can develop an elaborate holiday ritual centered around the“clootie dumpling,” a traditional Scottish cake that Celtic families would make around the holiday season. While the dumpling is baking, you can share stories of Scotland, or your children’s great-great-grandparents. Nothing fascinates kids more than stories of their background. Through your heritage, children experience a sense of continuity, and a sense of who they are as human beings.
Remember, the first holiday after the divorce is always the hardest. Whatever you do, donot give up on your child and the special relationship you share with them. Instead of looking at all that is wrong in life right now, make this aformative moment to help both you and your children to overcome past hurts and move on to a brighter future.
3. Check in on Yourself.
While you scramble to make the holiday season special for your children, you might forget about your own needs through this difficult time. It’s important to check in onyourself from time to time as you jump hoop and hurdle for your children. Overexerting yourself to make too many events can increase your own stress andanxiety, which will likely be picked up by your children. Your exhaustive efforts to appease your children over the holidays could be wearing you down into an unintentional state of negativity. If you find yourself feeling angryor frustrated at any time, give yourself some space from your children andchoose a healthy way to get yourself on track. Most of all, remember to nevertake out your frustration out on your children.
Even if your life with your children isn’t exactly where you’d like it to be right now, the good news is that we all have choices about how to move forward after a divorce, and howto make the holidays special again. Look at it as an opportunity: by being proactive and exercising these choices, you can create new and meaningfu ltraditions for you and your kids, ensuring they still have a shot at being happy!