Creating new holiday memories can help divorced families deal effectively with the ups and downs of the holiday season. Remember to keep the focus on what’s most important: sustaining a positive relationship with your children. Keeping conflict low in your home and creating new traditions will allow your kids to preserve positive memories in the years to come.
The holiday season can be a challenge for newly divorced family members. The holidays can trigger strong emotions, including feelings of sadness or loneliness – especially if you compare yourself to others and believe you fall short because you don’t feel cheerful or gregarious.
Let’s face it, it’s a not easy for parents to let go of grudges and bad memories of past holidays. But you can give your children the gift of hope by setting up new traditions which will ease the stress during the holiday season and bring them happiness. For instance, Ryan is a single dad who likes to cook, so he began a tradition of baking homemade bread with his two kids and delivering it to a soup kitchen sponsored by their church. This has become an important holiday ritual for Ryan and his children.
It’s also wise to be flexible and understanding as you negotiate schedules; your children may feel torn between their parents’ two disparate worlds. Show compassion for your kids if they seem stressed or worried. Remind them that it’s normal to feel more stress this time of year and you’ll help them to navigate through rocky patches any way you can.
Most children of divorce experience loyalty conflicts during the holidays and this can last into adulthood. The holiday season can remind them that their family is now divided and they may feel they are pulled in every direction and will ultimately disappoint both of their parents. As a result, you need to do everything in your power not to intensify your children’s feelings of being stuck in the middle between their parents’ two worlds during the holidays.
Children may worry they won’t have fun celebrating
What can you do to create new, positive holiday memories? The first step is an awareness that you have to create a new kind of family and that you'll grow stronger if you practice forgiveness. Holding
Next, show compassion toward your children and their other parent – clearly this time of year can be a challenge for them too. Modeling responsible behavior toward your former spouse is key to having a successful holiday. Children pick up on both verbal and non-verbal signs of anger, so do your best to keep these feelings in check. Never bad mouth your ex and model respectful communication in front of your children. Studies show that children adjust better to divorce if their parents minimize conflict and are cooperative with each other.
Author Gary Direnfeld, MSW writes, “While you may not love your former partner be careful about poisoning your child with anger or disdain towards their other parent.” He cautions us that kids form an impression of themselves as a reflection of their parents and consider themselves as being half mommy and half daddy. As a result, showing anger toward their other parent can contribute to your child’s low self-esteem and difficulty coping with their stressors.
Creating new holiday memories is well worth the effort and keeps the holiday spirit alive. Over time, you and your children can build new traditions and memories that will nourish everyone. For example, contributing to a giving tree at school or a community agency can help instill a sense of empathy and hope in your children after divorce.
The holiday season doesn’t have to be a time of stress overload for divorced family members if you keep the spotlight on your children’s well-being. Don’t forget to hug your kids and remember to focus on what’s most important – sustaining a positive relationship with your children.