Divorce can be a complex and emotional process for everyone involved, especially for kids. The holidays can be particularly tough as parents and families re-orchestrate their lives. The holidays and associated rituals intensify feelings of anxiety, depression, and financial tension underlying in the home all year long for divorced or separated couples. However, with a bit of thought, effort, and understanding, separated or divorced parents can make the holidays special for their children and help them cope with the changes in their lives.
Below are our top tips for divorced parents on making the most of the holiday season and keeping the season’s spirit alive for their kids. From decorating the house to creating new holiday traditions, separated or divorced parents can ensure that their children still have a memorable holiday experience.
Keeping the same holiday traditions
Many parents are keen to carry on the same traditions established during their marriage. Occasionally, however, one parent will feel uncomfortable simply “re-enacting” the past. If this is the case, the best thing to do is talk to your ex-spouse. This way, you can work out a compromise that makes everyone comfortable. If you want to re-enact a tradition, but your ex-spouse wants to modify it, try to understand where your ex-spouse is coming from. Doing so will help you reach a solution to make both of you happy.
Creating new holiday traditions
Try baking a new type of cookie each year or creating a special ornament representing each family member. Suppose you need more time to create new traditions. In that case, you can still make the holidays special for your kids by focusing on the traditions they already enjoy. Suppose your children want a particular holiday event, such as visiting Santa. In that case, you could do it yearly. If you and your ex-spouse don’t have any specific holiday traditions, you could make one up. This can be a lot of fun for you and your children and help you create lasting memories as a family.
Decorating the house can be fun to instill excitement about the holidays in your children. It is also a tradition you can keep even after your divorce. Consider decorating the house with things representing each family member or a theme based on your children’s interests. Suppose you are decorating with things that represent family members. In that case, you could use pictures, items your children like, or made.
If you are decorating with a theme, you could center the decorations around a hobby, a favorite TV show, a book, or a holiday. If you and your ex-spouse still share a house, you may want to decorate separately. You could do the decorations on one house floor, and your ex-spouse could do the other. If decorating the home with your ex-spouse, try making ornaments representing both families. You could have a Christmas tree with decorations from both families, or you could try to find decorations with both of your family’s names on them.
Communicating with your ex
You and your ex-spouse will have many opportunities to communicate throughout the year. You can use these chances to help your children feel more comfortable with the changes in their lives. If your child misses an old holiday tradition, ask your ex-spouse if they would be willing to do it again. If your child is excited about a new holiday tradition, you could ask your ex-spouse if they would like to join in.
You could also talk to your ex-spouse about how you will celebrate the holidays as a family. Let your ex-spouse know how you plan to decorate or what activities you plan to do. This will help your ex-spouse understand how you plan to celebrate and give your ex-spouse a chance to offer their advice or opinion.
Planning holiday activities
Many families enjoy celebrating the holidays by engaging in baking, seeing festive shows, or visiting holiday-themed attractions. Suppose you are planning a holiday activity with your children. In that case, you can use the event as an opportunity to discuss family’s importance. You could ask your children what they think the holidays mean to them, or you could ask your children how they feel the holidays impact their life.
This will help your children think about the holidays in a new way and help your children feel a greater connection to the holidays. This could be a great way to get your children excited about the upcoming season. If you plan to do something as a family, you could ask your ex-spouse if they would like to join. You could also talk to your ex-spouse about how you will celebrate the holidays as a family.
Letting your kids express their feelings
Children often have a lot of feelings about the divorce, and these feelings can come out during the holidays. Suppose your child expresses sadness or anger about the changes in the family. In that case, it is essential to acknowledge these feelings and help your child understand that they are valid. You could ask your child what they are feeling or try to guess what they might feel. This will help you start a conversation with your child and allow them to get their feelings out. You could also let your children know that it is okay to be sad about the changes in their life. Letting your kids know that you understand how they feel and that you don’t expect them to be happy can help them express their sadness and move on.
There may be some tension between you and your ex-spouse during the holidays. It is important to try to keep this in check, as letting the stress get out of control will make the holidays harder for everyone. You could set boundaries around topics of conversation. For example, you could decide that you don’t want to discuss your divorce with your ex-spouse, so you could suggest that you don’t discuss it.
You could also set boundaries around the amount of time you spend with each other during the holidays. You could limit how long you want to see your ex-spouse or decide not to see them on certain days. You could also set boundaries around gifts. You could choose not to exchange gifts, or you could decide that you don’t want to receive certain gifts from your ex-spouse.
Dealing with the financial implications of divorce
Parents naturally want to spoil their kids, especially around the holidays, and to make up for all the emotional turmoil the kids may have suffered during the year. But, if you are struggling financially due to your divorce, keep the holidays as simple as possible and curb reckless spending. Create a budget and list of gifts with your kids to keep your spending in check.
Spending time ice skating doesn’t have to cost much but can be a memorable experience for you and the kids. Talk to your children about whatever you decide to do so everyone understands and feels included; this will help you stick to your budget too. While divorce or separation can be stressful for you and your kids, you can still create memorable holiday celebrations by making the most of the holiday season. Remember, while gifts may create momentary excitement, what kids want most is to feel cared for and loved.