The holidays can be a rough time for a child after a divorce. As this season preaches times of merriment and togetherness, your child may have a particularly difficult time digesting the divorce of their parents during this time of year. Going through a divorce, especially during the holidays, can have a tremendously stressful effect on you and your child. Take, for example, your child’s first Thanksgiving after divorce.
Be flexible in your plans to let the stress roll off your back and reward yourself with a stress-free Thanksgiving. With a bit of forethought and intention, you can take action to make your child’s first Thanksgiving without both of their parents enjoyable – for this year and the years to come.
Tips for How to Handle Your Child’s First Thanksgiving After Divorce
1. Create New Traditions
As Thanksgiving is a time for families to spend time together, your child may have some confusing thoughts and feelings towards having only one parent around for the holiday. Being so young, all of the traditions they have experienced up until this point has been with both parents.
Start your Thanksgiving off on a fun note by coming up with a new tradition with your child that is special to just the two of you. For example, choosing a film to re-watch each year or going to the movie theater that day. If you are hoping to adopt a healthier lifestyle, perhaps you and your child could explore some healthy alternatives to the classic treats you’ve had before. Taking this initiative lets your child know that they are still your focal point on the holiday and that will never change, even if some of the old traditions have.
[Ed. For example, a Gratitude Jar will allow your children to express gratitude rather than grumbles. Set a good example for your kids by expressing your own gratitude, and help your children to find things to be grateful for even after divorce. Please feel free to download a .pdf with a label for your jar as well as a template for your children to use.]
2. Open Up for Questions
One of the cherished things about the holiday season is the ability to spend more in-depth, quality time with your family. This might give you the opportunity to open yourself up for more conversations with your child. Memories of Thanksgivings in the past may ignite some questions within your child that you can have time to answer with your undivided attention.
When talking to your child about your divorce, you’ll want to put their emotional needs first and be prepared to talk honestly with them about the situation. If they have a question for both of you as parents, don’t hesitate to call your ex and put them on speakerphone so that your child doesn’t get a one-sided answer.
3. Don’t Add Stress
It is natural to want to go over the top with your Thanksgiving plans in order to ensure that you and your child have an enjoyable holiday. This is not a time to introduce a new prospective partner or a group of friends with whom your child is unfamiliar. If you typically travel for the holiday to visit family that lives far away, take caution. Traveling can create a stressful environment for you and your child, and stress affects your body, making you and your child more susceptible to getting sick this upcoming flu season.
4. Get Into the Thanksgiving Spirit
Your child is likely to follow your lead in most situations. If you are feeling mopey or uncomfortable this holiday, your child will mimic you, and the results will be a terrible holiday for you both. Even if you have to force it, get into the holiday spirit for the sake of your child. Decorate your home, make plans to enjoy a holiday meal, and plaster a smile on your face. Studies have shown that if you force yourself to smile, you will feel happier as a byproduct.
Your child is always going to remember their first Thanksgiving spent as a separated family. It is up to you and your ex-partner to decide what shape those memories take. Remind yourself, and your child, that the holiday is meant for expressing gratitude for what you have in your life. Focus on giving thanks and practicing self-care –the rest will fall gracefully into place.