By Lewis Landerholm, Founder of Pacific Cascade Legal
Divorced parents often feel guilty, especially around the holidays. But there are ways to work through that guilt and make the holidays special for your children. Think about what your children need, and then try to stick to a schedule as much as possible. Creating stability and routines will help you adjust to this new family dynamic.
As someone who has helped countless families through this difficult time, I have several tips to help with divorced parent guilt.
5 Tips to Reassure and Help Parents this Holiday Season
Create New Traditions
The holidays are a time for family tradition. But if your family is no longer together, divorced parent guilt can creep in when you think about everything you and your ex-spouse used to do during the holidays with the kids. You can create new traditions with your children to create a more positive mindset this holiday season. This can be as simple as decorating the Christmas tree together or baking cookies. Whatever you do, aim for something that you and your children will enjoy and look forward to every year.
Get the children involved! Ask them what they want to do for the holidays, birthdays, and other special events. Getting them involved will help you develop a plan that is more likely to be accepted, making you feel less guilty. Ask them what traditions are important to them and see if there are any you can carry on. If they have suggestions for new traditions, be open to trying them out. The most important thing is that your children feel involved in the holiday planning and have something to look forward to. If they are looking forward to something, you will get excited about it too!
Focus on Open Communication
It is vital for all involved to have open communication. This will help ensure everyone is on the same page, especially regarding holiday plans. Avoid face-to-face conversations if you are not on friendly terms with your ex. Take advantage of the technology we all have at our fingertips. Sending texts or emails is also a good way for everyone to have a written reminder of the plan, so there is no confusion.
Try to avoid talking about your ex-spouse in negative terms in front of your children. This can be tough, but it’s important to remember that your kids love both of their parents. If you badmouth your ex, your children will feel caught in the middle and may start to resent you.
Instead, focus on the positive. This is a time to focus on what you’re grateful for. Yes, things might be tough right now, but there are also good things in your life. Maybe you have a great relationship with your children or you have supportive family and friends. Whatever it is, focus on the positives and let that be your source of strength.
Comparison Is The Thief of Joy
It might be a cliché, but it is true – comparing yourself to others usually doesn’t make you feel better; it makes you feel like you’re not doing enough, especially as a parent. It’s much easier said than done, but try not to compare your parenting style with your ex-partner or other parents. The most important thing is that children feel loved and supported and that you enjoy your time with your children. Talk to your children about their feelings. Let them know it’s okay to feel sad or angry. But also let them know that you’re there for them and love them.
Making sure your children feel loved and supported will help you feel less guilty. They may not say it, but they need to know that you’re emotionally available for them. This can be difficult for them, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. There is plenty of evidence to confirm that staying in the marriage for the sake of your children is not always the right decision. Showing your kids that you were strong enough to remove yourself – and them – from a volatile and painful situation will allow them to understand that a healthy relationship is built on a foundation of trust and respect.
If you’re struggling with divorced parent guilt, remember that you are not alone. It might be helpful to talk to a therapist or join a local (or virtual!) support group for divorced parents. You can read books or articles about divorced parenting, but talking to others going through the same can be incredibly helpful and make you feel less alone. The same goes for your children. They may not open up to you about how they feel, but they will have some feelings to work through. Providing them with someone to lean on for support can be invaluable.
Your divorce attorney may be able to provide you with some resources to get started. In this day and age of social media, finding others in your situation is not hard. Divorced parenting blogs or Facebook groups are a great way to find support and advice from others who understand what you’re going through.
Take Care of Yourself
This is probably the most important tip of all. To be the best parent you can be, you must take care of yourself first. Like those airplane safety videos where the flight attendants tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others, the same principle can be applied here.
If you’re not taking care of yourself after a divorce, taking care of your children’s needs will feel more demanding. Make sure you’re eating well, getting enough sleep, drinking water (why is this one so easy to forget?), and doing at least one thing that makes you happy. This can be anything from reading, walking, or taking a yoga class. It doesn’t have to be anything big – just something that brings you joy.
You Can Do This!
Dealing with divorced parent guilt can be challenging, especially during holidays. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. There are many divorced parents out there who are going through the same thing.
But by focusing on your relationship with your children, communicating openly with everyone involved, and seeking support when needed, you can make it through this holiday season and many more.
Lewis Landerholm was raised by a family dedicated to helping people. He learned early on that education, and a helping hand could make all the difference. As a result, Lewis founded Pacific Cascade Legal, a law firm dedicated to helping families through challenging times, including divorce.