The holidays after divorce will never be the same, just be sure not to screw them up for your kids with divorce drama!
We’re asking a lot of children if we think they will simply bounce back from the divorce of their parents and eventually act as though nothing happened! The truth is, no matter what the circumstances, a divorce will rock a child’s world, and nothing about life will ever be the same again. Now, there is a lot that divorced parents can do to cushion the landing for their children so that it need not be any more traumatic than necessary, starting with the way we conduct ourselves during the holidays.
The holidays can bring out the green-eyed, sugar crazed monster in even the sweetest of our offspring! The dazzling lights, hypnotic carols, steady diet of sweets, time off school, and the allure of presents coming from every direction is enough to send little Johnny or Susie off the deep end!
The season is magical, but it’s a wonder that any child can hold it together with all the over-stimulation and disruption to ordinary life. If we add divorced parents to the mix, we have to seriously wish them all the best!
How can parents help their children enjoy the holidays without suffering through divorce drama or becoming little grinches?
Drop the “two Christmases” sales pitch ASAP! Divorce sucks- no two ways about it! We need to stop trying to bedazzle dog poo by conning children into believing divorce is on par with winning the lottery because now they get two celebrations! Yes, mom and dad will both want to have a turn at the festivities; but, from the child’s perspective, divorce isn’t only presents at two places, it also means never celebrating a special event again with all the people they love most together.
Kids aren’t dumb. Let’s give them some credit and be upfront and honest about the fact that divorce isn’t something to do cartwheels about, but it is something we can all overcome together. Without doing an impression of an infomercial spokesperson, simply explain that the holidays will be different. The holidays will still offer plenty to look forward to in the way of love and excitement; but, there’s no need to be dishonest or present divorce as the best thing ever!
Withdraw from the gift competition. Surely we don’t want to raise children who equate material objects with love or whose affections can be bought. All kids enjoy presents- who doesn’t? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do nice things for our children or wishing for them to have a nice holiday. The danger is getting caught up in a frenzy of gift competition with an ex in effort to be the favorite or to outshine the other parent.
Many kids may, at least initially, allow parents to make fools of themselves because they stand to reap the greatest reward for our behavior. The result may be kids who become greedy, shallow, and manipulative. Don’t think that a kid won’t play one parent off of the other to cash in once they become aware of mom and dad’s game! For the kids who snap out of the materialistic mayhem, they will learn to see through their parent’s attempts to buy their love and affection, and they won’t appreciate being made to feel like an object that can be bought or sold.
Don’t overdo it out of guilt. We never wanted to cause our kids any grief because of our choices, so sometimes we may feel tempted to ease their pain with gifts and fun. While a mountain of presents and good times may offer a temporary distraction, they’re no substitute for our time, attention, and the memories we can make together!
Just do you! Worrying about how many gifts, decorations, and other attractions are waiting at our ex’s home can drive us mad, if we let it! Don’t let nosiness interfere with the precious time we have to share with our children. Who cares what they’re eating and how they choose to mark the occasion? Let the kids enjoy what is special or unique about each home and the traditions of each family. Make the most of your time in your home, but don’t worry about copying, one-upping, spying, or criticizing.
Holidays will look different after divorce. While you were married to your ex, your methods of celebrating holidays blended with theirs. Now, as divorced parents, we are tasked with untangling our style of observing special days. Think of it as an opportunity to go back to childhood roots of how your family used to celebrate, or highlight the aspects of the occasion that have become the most special. Talk to the kids about what they look forward to the most and how they would like to spend the day. Use post-divorce as an opportunity to bond with them and establish new and meaningful ways together!
Save drama for another day. Don’t let petty divorce b.s. such as arguments about schedules, money, and other typical conflicts spoil the beauty of the holidays! Respect the fact that your child will want to spend time with all members of their family. Don’t be that person who will shatter the mood with rude comments about your former in-laws, dad’s new girlfriend, or how his nose resembles Rudolph’s after a few too many beers! These are the days kids dream of, so allow them their joy no matter how much your ex irks you!
Plenty of drama can be avoided by following the direction offered by the court-ordered parenting plan, willingness to communicate and cooperate, and general co-parenting instead of counter-parenting. Of course we would all love to enjoy a peaceful holiday and not be without our kids for one minute; but, the reality of divorce is that our children are as much ours as they are our ex’s and we need to share!
Checking off gifts from a shopping list, trimming the tree, and visiting the jolly man in red is only the start to preparing for the holidays for children of divorce. They deserve a true holiday from the negative consequences of divorce so they can just enjoy the wonder of the season and being kids! We can give them what they want- and need- most by not allowing ourselves to get carried away by guilt, contempt for our ex, or feelings of inadequacy and competitiveness. We owe them honesty, the freedom to share special moments with everyone they love, and sane parents!