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KEEPING THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT ALIVE DURING DIVORCE

Adapted from an article by Cathy Meyer

There is a certain magic and wonder about the holidays that no child should be robbed of. How you deal with your separation and divorce during the holiday will directly affect the level of magic and wonder your child experiences. Your actions can help keep the holiday spirit alive and your children merry.

The holidays will be more enjoyable if you emphasize the positive and let go of the negative. During the holidays focus on the merriment: decorations, celebrations, cookie baking, and gift giving. If you are having a hard time with the fact your family is no longer celebrating as a unit, together in one place, be weary of how you are interacting with your children.

Below are a few tips that will help you keep your children in high spirits during the holiday.

  • Don’t bring up divorce. I heard a friend reminding her children, “This is our first holiday as a broken family.” Ouch! She spent the season angry and blaming her ex for ruining her kids' holiday. There was no getting her to understand that her children were simply following her lead. Try not to allow your negative feelings intrude upon your children's experiences during the holidays… or any other time for that matter.

  • Find additional support for yourself. It’s important not to neglect your feelings of your grief, but rather find appropriate outlets/resources for supporting you through your grief. Look for divorce support groups or counseling within your community. Having a place of support often makes the holidays a bit easier to cope with while your grieving your divorce.

  • Make the most time spent with your children. If you are divorced, it may not be possible to share every moment of the holiday with your child. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of the time you do have. As a parent, you have a choice. Holidays can be a time of celebration shared with your children, or they can be a time of navel gazing and pity parties. It is up to you what memories you build with your children. Building positive memories means building strong relationships.

  • If you aren't the custodial parent, build new traditions with your child in your home. Make the holiday about the time you are able to spend with your child--not about the time you don't have together.

  • Involve your children in decision making. When parents divorce, children feel a lack of control. They have no voice in whether or not their family stays together. Giving your children some control over how they spend their time (holidays and otherwise) lessens the stress of that lack of control. This can be especially important for older children, who would rather be hanging out with friends. Give your child the option of bringing a friend along or planning activities with friends during their time with you. Take advantage of your time together, but allow your child to have an active role in planning any activities you will be doing together.

  • Love Your Child First. When George Strait sang, “If it weren’t for my two kids, I'd hate my ex-wife,” he knew what he was singing about. You may not be able to manage it at other times, but during the holidays, you need to love your children more than you hate your ex-spouse. The holidays aren’t about getting even with your ex, they are about finding joy and celebrating a holiday filled with seasonal spirit and love.