Helping Your Children Through the Holidays Post-Divorce

Your First Holiday Season After Divorcing

The first holiday season after a divorce is difficult for families. Whether you have young children, teenagers, or even adult children, getting through this time of year can feel like a battle. Not only are you all adjusting to your new reality, but you all may be struggling to come to terms with the fact that the holiday season will never be what it once was.

If you are starting to feel bogged down by the weight of your first post-divorce holiday season and aren’t sure how to support your children, you aren’t alone. There is no quick fix or easy answer to navigating your children’s first Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah after a divorce. However, there are a few things you can do to not only help prepare your family for the upcoming season but also help them enjoy the new traditions and memories you will be making.

Keep reading for three tips for helping your children navigate the holidays after a divorce.

#1: Focus on Your Children First & Be Present

Whether it’s only been a few weeks or a few months, that first year after a divorce is often considered the hardest for everyone. In many ways, divorce is traumatic for everyone involved, and children frequently struggle to come to terms with it the most. As a parent, you can help them deal with this by consciously putting your focus on your kids. Consider their holiday experience first and look for ways to help them have a happy holiday.

This will look different for every family and is not always easily accomplished. Many children will try to hide how they are feeling or may profess that they are fine when they aren’t. However, it is important to remember that as their parent, you know them better than anyone else. Follow your intuition and continue to ask your children how they are feeling.

Small ways to prioritize your children during the holiday season:

  • Look for ways to make new memories with them, such as attending a Christmas pageant or going to a winter festival
  • Create new traditions outside the specific day the holiday falls on, especially if your visitation schedule means you do not get to spend the actual holiday with your children every single year
  • Make sure to attend important holiday events at your children’s school, such as winter shows and recitals they may be participating in

#2: Make Your Holiday Plans Early & Be Flexible

Co-parenting through the holiday season can require a lot of planning. This is especially true if you and/or your co-parent plan to travel with your children during the holidays. To ensure a smooth holiday season, start planning and coordinating with your co-parent early. Not only will this help you smooth out any scheduling issues, but it can also help your children manage their expectations for the holiday season.

Even if you have a simple, clear visitation schedule, there are frequently surprises that pop up and which necessitate changes to your plans. A relative may come into town unexpectedly and want to see your children when it is your co-parent’s normal day with them, or your co-parent may get sick and need you to take care of the children while they recover. Being open to flexibility and last-minute changes can help everyone feel less overwhelmed or stressed when issues arise.

#3: Set Clear Boundaries

Often, we are shown an ideal picture of a co-parenting relationship, such as parents who are divorced but still friends having big joint family celebrations. Frankly, this is not the reality for most divorced parents. Instead of holding yourself to these impossible standards, focus on developing a functional, effective relationship with your co-parent while also being clear and firm about your boundaries.

If you and your co-parent struggle to remain civil with each other, consider expressly limiting your communication to that which only pertains to your children. You may also wish to restrict your communication about the holidays to email or phone calls and avoid in-person meetings when possible. Setting boundaries can not only help protect you and your emotions, but it can also help reduce conflict across the board.

At the Law Office of Alexandra White, P.C., we believe in supporting families throughout their divorce process and beyond. Send us a message if you have questions about your divorce case or need help with a custody or visitation matter. We are here to help.