The holidays can be a stressful time, and talking to your children about divorce related topics – like who’s going to which house for Christmas dinner – can be hard for parents. But studies have shown that keeping your kids in the loop, and being willing to talk about their concerns, does more for helping children through divorce than almost anything else.
So what can you do to keep your kids calm and collected this year? Try these ideas, and see how much better your holidays will be.
- Plan out the child custody holiday schedule in advance. Kids get shuffled around a lot during the holiday season, and it’s not always fair to them. By planning out the child custody holiday schedule ahead of time, you can eliminate confusion and feelings of anxiety. Plus, kids like routines: telling them what they’re doing, where they’re going and how long they’ll be there will allow them to feel as though they’re still in control.
- Create options for travel (when possible). If your child will have to travel extensively during the holidays, s/he may feel some anxiety over how much time s/he will have with loved ones. If possible, create some different traveling options for your child. If your child believes that all the holidays are going to be spent traveling, s/he might be less likely to see the point of celebrating. But if you give your kids some control over how and when you travel, you can avoid those feelings of anxiety.
- Consider “moving” the holidays to another day. One of the more difficult aspects of preparing your children for a divorce is deciding how the holidays will be split up. It might be easier on everyone if holiday celebrations can be “moved” according to schedule. So instead of shuffling your kids around all day on Thanksgiving, plan a special Thanksgiving dinner on Friday night for you and your family.
- Start some new traditions. Sure, Christmas Day is always fun – but there’s no reason that Christmas Eve can’t be just as fun. Instead of forcing your children to move from home to home on Christmas Day, split the holiday into two full days of Christmas joy. You and your ex can always rotate between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, if that’s best. Plus, your kids have the added bonus of two full days of celebration.
Helping Your Children through Divorce at the Holidays
The most important thing to remember when talking to your children about divorce is that positivity goes a long way. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It’s imperative that you and your ex remain upbeat and positive around your children. If you have concerns about things you may have heard, don’t let your children know: address them separately with your ex at a different time.
And remember that kids are pretty smart. Asking them to “spy” on Mommy or Daddy creates big problems. Allow your kids to enjoy the time they’re spending with their other parent in a safe and guilt-free way.
By speaking to your children in a clear and age-appropriate way, you’re helping the children through the divorce process in a healthy way. Encourage them to tell you what they feel and to ask questions when they’re confused. If you keep the dialogue open and positive, your kids will end up happier and healthier. It may also have the added bonus of making the child custody holiday schedule easier to plan, because your kids will tell you outright what works best for them. Ultimately, you’ll make the decisions – but a little bit on input goes a long way.