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Celebrating the Holidays Following Divorce or Separation

Celebrating the Holidays Following Divorce or Separation

On 5 Dec 2019, in family issues, parenting

By Rachel Cherrick, MSW, LCSW

For families who are going through or who have experienced divorce or separation, fall and winter holidays tend to contribute to elevated stress levels for both parents and children alike.

Given that many cultures emphasize spending time with family around the holidays, such reminders may potentially stir up a variety of feelings among the family unit. Though holiday celebrations may look and feel different for families following divorce or separations, try out these six strategies to cope through the holiday season and even experience some holiday cheer.

  1. Create New Traditions: While change is difficult for most people, change can also serve as an opportunity to create a new and fun experience. For example, if your child(ren) will spend Thanksgiving Day with your co-parent, perhaps you can start a tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving with your kids the weekend before Thanksgiving. Create the new traditions in collaboration with your kids-incorporating their ideas will help them feel appreciated.

  2. Prepare Yourself and Your Children: Make sure both you and your child(ren) are aware of the holiday schedule. Sometimes creating a calendar together with your child(ren) can serve as a fun and helpful reminder to ensure they know where they are spending the holidays.

  3. Validate: Affirm your child(ren’s) feelings about the situation. While some children are sad and angry about celebrating holidays separately, others are actually excited by the idea of experiencing multiple celebrations. Give space for your child(ren) to feel whatever they are feeling and do not be surprised if they feel both excited and sad during this time.

  4. Listen with Love: When your child(ren) return to your home, listen with love as they tell you about their holiday experience with the other parent. Regardless of your personal relationship with your co-parent, avoid bad-mouthing your co-parent in front of the child(ren) or asking your children too many questions about their experience. Ask simple, open-ended questions such as “How was your time at…?” If the child(ren) does not feel like discussing their experiences, do not pressure them to give you an answer.

  5. Try the Team Approach: If your co-parenting relationship is a workable one, try to team up for gift-giving and holiday related activities by sharing your plans with the other parent. Send them a list in advance of the gifts you plan to buy and the excursions you plan to enjoy so as to minimize duplicative experiences for the child(ren).

  6. Take Care of Yourself: If you know that spending time alone on a holiday will be difficult for you, carve out time to spend time with friends or other family members. Engage in activities that give you joy, reminding yourself that you deserve happiness.

If you feel concerned that your divorce or separation will impact your family’s holiday experience this season, please contact the professionals at BJC EAP for free and confidential support. Visit our website: bjceap.com or call 24/7: 314.747.7490 or toll-free 888.505.6444. Remember, we are here to support both you and your family.

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