Making a Plan Reduces Holiday Stress for Children of Divorce
The holidays can be an exciting, joyful time. They also can be full of stress, over planning and a general overwhelmed feeling. This can especially be the case for families going through a separation or divorce.
Make sure Everyone’s on the Same Page
That’s not to say the holidays can’t still be a time of excitement and joy for divorced families. It just may take some planning and conversations with your child on what to expect. Communication is key to setting your child’s expectation for the holidays. First make sure to review your parenting agreement to know what you agreed upon for the holidays. Where will the children be at certain times or on specific holidays? This will guide you on discussing how your child’s time will be spent for the holiday. Communicate with each other to decide how and when your exchanges will take place will help decrease frustration and help the children to feel more secure and less stressed.
Something to consider is celebrating part of the holidays together with your ex and your children, especially if your separation is fairly recent. Remember if you decide to do this make sure the children know you are not getting back together. You don’t want to send mixed messages to your children. Some people are shocked when divorced families celebrate holidays or birthdays together. Go ahead and shock them!
Advance Planning Creates Reasonable Expectations
It’s important to plan ahead and ideally have holiday plans made in advance. This allows to let your child know what to expect on the holiday, whose home they will be at, what relatives they will see, etc. Talk with your extended family and discuss a plan ahead of the holiday by either not spending the day with them or asking them for help and understanding. With teenagers, let them have some say in how to spend the holiday, however remember the ultimate decision is yours as the parent.
Not All Holidays have to be Celebrated on the Calendar Date
It’s okay to set lower expectations during the holiday time. A holiday doesn’t have to be celebrated on the actual day. A special day or special memories doesn’t have to occur on a specific date. For example if mom is scheduled to have Thanksgiving Day then maybe dad plans a Thanksgiving dinner the following day.
Make it Special with New Traditions
An important part of the holidays that is often forgotten is traditions. Traditions help children to feel secure and comforted that some things will continue even though their family dynamics have changed. This is also a great time to start new traditions such as baking cookies every year or after getting the Christmas tree going out for hot chocolate.
Consider setting aside time for a phone call or video chat with the parent who the children are not with on the actual holiday. This will take some communication and planning from both parents ahead of time. Making an audio tape or recorded audio book for a child to listen to is also another way that parents can help their children adjust to not seeing both parents on the holidays.