How to Help Kids Cope with the Holidays After Separation or Divorce

Getting through the holidays as a separated or divorced couple is difficult.  What makes this even more difficult is when children are involved. Divorce can be particularly hard on kids because they have to deal with two houses, two schedules, two sides of the family, or perhaps even blended families or new relationships.  People often say that kids are resilient and will be able to bounce back from situations like this quickly.  This is often said so that the parties involved feel better, but in many cases, this cannot be further from the truth. If you and your ex are having a difficult time, it is that much harder for a child.

It is crucial that you and your ex come together to develop a plan to ease the anxiety of the holiday season on your children. Ask yourself “What is truly best for the kids?” Put aside your differences and put forth 100% effort into co-parenting. Your kids will pick up on the attitude that you have towards your ex.  Showing them that you can be amicable will give them the hope that mom and dad can still be friends.

Decisions that You and Your Ex Will Be Faced with Include:

  • How much time will be spent with each parent?
  • Who will spend Christmas Eve / Christmas Day / Boxing Day / New Year’s etc. with the children?
  • Who will be buying which gifts? When will the gifts be given? Will you take your child shopping to buy a gift for your ex, and vice versa?
  • If one parent wants to leave town for the holidays, will the children accompany them?
  • How much time will the child be able to spend with friends over the holidays? (This can be especially important for older children, as time with friends can act as a great stress reliever.)

These are not the types of decisions that should be “played by ear”.  It is also a good idea to not over-do it during the holidays with visiting too many friend and family homes.  Less busy = less stress.  Instead, focus more on strengthening the relationships that you have with your children and make them feel secure.

It’s important to sit down together with your children to discuss the holiday schedule.  Emphasize that it will still be a joyous time – it will just be different.  This way, children don’t have to feel guilty for being happy when they are with one parent and not the other.  Ask them how they feel about what you have decided.  Be welcoming to their feelings, concerns, and suggestions.

Anticipate that they will have a variety of emotions.  It will help a lot if you and your ex maintain a unified front and reassure them of your love for them.  It is okay to express to them that you are sad as well because you understand that divorce is very painful.

In some cases, you and your ex may get along well enough to spend the holidays together. This can really help the kids when there is only one family gathering to attend.  However, should there be the slightest risk of conflict, this should be avoided.  You would also want to be clear that just because mom and dad are spending the holidays together, this does not mean that they are staying together. You want to avoid giving children any sense of false hope.

Find ways to replace the happy times of past holidays with new memories.  Most importantly, kids need to feel that life will go on and everything will be okay. Plus, if this is the first year after a separation or divorce, it will make subsequent years that much easier to cope with if handled well this time around.

Questions about how professionals can help separated or divorced clients get through the holidays in peace? Contact Rahul at Clean Divorce – serving clients in Vancouver, New Westminster, and surrounding areas.