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Helping Children of Divorce Get Through the Holidays

The holidays can be a tough time when you’re divorced. Normal family traditions have been interrupted, you have to compete with your ex-spouse for the attention of your children, and if you’re still single, loneliness and jealousy can set in. As a parent, you have an added task, and that is getting your children through the holidays in one piece. Children didn’t choose their parents’ divorce and so should not be forced to suffer and pay the consequences for their parents’ mistakes. It can be tough not to let your emotions get in the way of ensuring stability for your kids at the holidays, but if you follow the tips below, it can be done.

Make a Plan and Stick With It

Planning ahead is key to avoiding stress and emotional meltdowns for divorced parents. If you have a custody agreement, stick to it. But if you want to deviate from the custody agreement or don’t have one, talk to your ex-spouse well in advance and plan something both parents can live with it. Then stick with the plan. If the kids need to go to dad’s at 1, don’t wait till 2 to start loading them up. If your kids show up late for the other parent’s Christmas, they will pay the price in terms of loss of time with their parent and residual stress. It can be hard to give up time with your children, but it’s even harder for them if they don’t know what to expect.

Don’t Make Your Child the Decision Maker Just as in families where the parents are married, children go through periods of time where they prefer one parent over another. However, asking your child, “Which parent do you want to spend Christmas with?” is a recipe for hurt feelings. Children who don’t have a preference are likely to feel pressured to make a decision and may end up feeling like no matter what they do they can’t please either parent. Work out an agreement with your ex-spouse beforehand. Talk to your child about what the plan will be and listen to any suggestions they might have, but giving your child too much control over post-divorce holiday decisions puts them in a losing position.

Be Positive You should never badmouth your ex-spouse in front of the kids, but this goes double for the holidays. Christmas time can bring up fantasies of mom and dad getting back together for the kids, and so talking negatively about the other parent is especially hurtful.

If your child is having a particularly hard time with your divorce, focus on some of the positive aspects with them: they get two Christmases; they get to meet new people if one of you has a significant other. Most importantly, emphasize that they have two parents who love and want them very much.

Make Time for Yourself It can be extraordinarily difficult when your kids leave to go to the other parent’s house, so make sure you have time with friends, a dinner, or something else to do lined up. This will help to curb your own resentment, thus making it less likely you will lash out against your spouse. It will also make Christmas more enjoyable and less painful for you!

No matter what you do, do not lose sight of the most important thing here: your children. Ignore old resentments and put away old fights, and focus on giving your children the best Christmas you possibly can. If for whatever reason you will not be seeing your children at Christmas, be sure to talk to them about this and schedule a special Christmas celebration with them for a different day. Ove

Cristine Travis is a Featured Contributor in Women s Health and Dating & Relationships for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. She volunteered as a full time rape crisis counselor for many years, and brings…  View profile