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Tips to Help Your Kids Navigate The Holidays Following a Divorce

Nov. 21, 2023

It can be challenging to navigate divorce during holidays. The holidays are a time for joy, laughter, and spending time with loved ones, but they can also represent a sense of loss for children whose parents have recently divorced. Traditions they once looked forward to will now be changed as they navigate splitting time with their parents, and they may feel caught in the middle of you and your ex.

While the first holiday following your divorce may be difficult for your entire family, it is particularly important that you take steps to support your children during this challenging time. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to ease the transition for your children, helping to ensure that the holidays are still warm and memorable for them.

Plan Your Holiday Schedule in Advance

Make sure that you take the time to go over your holiday schedule with your ex well in advance in order to prevent any potential conflicts as the holidays arrive. If you do not already have a holiday plan in place as part of your co-parenting or custody agreement, work together to create a schedule of events that works well for both of you and makes time for both families. 

Make sure that you communicate this plan to your kids so that they can be prepared mentally and emotionally for the schedule that is to come, as splitting the holidays can be overwhelming initially.  

Maintain Consistency Where Possible

With so much change taking place as you navigate divorce, your children will find comfort in routine and consistency. This is particularly important during the holidays, as they likely have annual traditions that they look forward to. When creating your holiday schedule, discuss the possibility with your ex of maintaining certain traditions, as this can help your kids feel secure and grounded. For instance, if they are used to having Christmas dinner with your ex's family, they may feel as if they are missing out if they don't get to go. So, as much as you may like to have your kids for Christmas dinner, try to be flexible when setting your holiday schedule, as this will ensure your children's happiness.   

But Don't Be Afraid To Build New Traditions

Of course, the first holiday season following a divorce will also be about building new traditions with your children. Try to find ways to make new traditions out of old ones, such as making a point of taking your children with you to pick a tree for your new home if this is something you used to do together. Make sure to talk to your children about what holiday traditions are important to them and if they have any ideas for how you can celebrate the holidays together. Asking questions can help them feel more excited about the holidays as they will be part of building new traditions with you. 

Help Your Child Shop for Their Other Parent

Part of what can make the holidays so difficult for children following a divorce is that they may feel caught in the middle between you and your ex. They may even feel as though they have to show their loyalty to you by not mentioning holiday activities they're doing with your ex or asking for help shopping for a gift for their other parent. 

Doing something as simple as helping your child buy a gift for their other parent can then have a powerful effect by reinforcing that they do not need to pick sides. In doing so, you will be encouraging them to have a strong relationship with their other parent. It also gives you an opportunity to teach them the importance of giving and goodwill during the holiday season.   

Encourage Open Communication

The key to making the holidays as enjoyable as possible for your kids is making sure that you encourage open communication. As this is the first holiday season following your divorce, your kids may be struggling with a mix of emotions including sadness, anxiety, anger, confusion, and even a sense of loss over lost family traditions. Simply encouraging your kids to express their emotions and acting as a compassionate listener can help your children cope with this difficult transition.  

Know When to Seek Professional Help

Of course, even if you try to be open with your children and encourage them to talk about their feelings, they may not be comfortable opening up to you about their feelings regarding the divorce. If you notice that your child seems to be struggling to cope with the changes they are facing this holiday season, you should consider seeking professional support. A therapist will have the knowledge and experience to help your child open up and process their feelings, and they will give them the tools they need to successfully navigate the first holiday season following your divorce.  

Going through a divorce can be difficult enough, but the holidays can make this experience even more stressful for you and your family. At the Law Office of Jana K. Jones, we know that the holiday season can make divorce harder and more emotional than ever. Feel free to contact us today to learn about how we can help you and your family navigate divorce during the holidays.