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Helping kids cope with the first Christmas after a divorce

Helping kids cope with the first Christmas after a divorce

The Ghost of Christmas Past can wield a lot of power over a family. The small, homely rituals of each previous year combine to create a certain excitement and expectation for the current year’s holiday season.

Divorce disrupts all of that — and your children may feel that disruption even more strongly than you do. So how do you help your kids regain their sense of family when it hasn’t even been a year since your divorce?

1. Talk about everyone’s feelings.

You may be afraid to bring up the subject of grief over the way things were — especially if your child hasn’t mentioned it.

However, children may just not know where to start or they may be afraid of upsetting you if they don’t seem happy. Never equate silence with the idea that everything’s okay.

Let your kids know that it’s okay to feel sad or nostalgic about the good times when your family was still intact.

Reassure them know that even though things are different, you can still have a good time over the holidays.

2. Be nice to your ex-spouse.

You don’t have to buy your ex-spouse a holiday gift, but you should remind your kids to pick out something for their mother or father — and help them. This is especially important for younger children.

How you interact with your ex-spouse and your acts of kindness will help set the tone for the holidays for your kids. If you have primary physical custody of the children, be flexible about visitation so that the kids and your ex-spouse get plenty of time together.

Also, make sure that you keep your ex-spouse’s extended family in mind. If the kids have always gone to Grandma’s house on the day after Christmas, for example, try to keep that tradition going. It will help things feel more “normal” to your kids.

3. Let stress be your guide.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but stress can be useful. If the thought of continuing a specific holiday tradition — like the annual run from one relative’s house to another to visit — feels overwhelming, don’t do it.

Not everyone may be happy with your choices, but it’s more important that you and the kids are happy with your choices — even if that includes spending Christmas Eve at home, in your pajamas, watching old holiday movies together.

Source: Parenting Apart, “How divorced parents can help their children survive the holidays,” Christina McGhee, accessed Dec. 15, 2017

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