As the holidays begin, parents focus on how to make the season magical for their children. Divorced parents often try even harder.
You spend more money. Plan more outings. Create more expectations. Yet, grown children of divorce often recall that the holidays were the worst part of the year. During a season focused on Rockwell family images, how does a family engage in the season after divorce?
Certain gifts make all the difference.
Gift 1: Peace
“I dreaded Christmas. My parents tried, they really did. They spent hundreds on presents and I got everything on my list. Then, they wrecked it all by fighting. All I really wanted was for them to get along.” Abby, 23, a child of divorce.
The greatest gift divorced/divorcing parents can give their children this holiday? To get along.
Begin by meeting in early November and making a plan. Decide who will give which gift, where to sit at recitals, and how to manage competing family celebrations.
Working through the details keeps expectations clear. As you work together to resolve the issues, you protect children from taking on this burden. Guarding their childhood becomes another of your greatest gifts to your children.
If working together proves tough, focus on a twist in the theme of the season: peace in these two houses; good will toward the other parent.
Gift 2: Guilt-free enjoyment
“The worst part of coming home from Dad’s Christmas party was hiding my smile from mom. She could never know I actually had fun.” Joe, 34, a child of divorce.
Former spouses often wish their ex would disappear. Children never wish their parent would disappear. Children experience parents very differently than parents experience each other.
Parents who understand this find the inner strength to let children openly enjoy time with their other parent. If you can get to this place, you free your children to experience the joy of the holidays–just like other kids.
Gift 3: Traditions
Children love traditions. So much that doing something only twice, even something as simple as making Chex Mix the first day of Christmas break, often qualifies as a tradition. Traditions also play a key role in defining families, especially after divorce.
Children’s security comes primarily from their parents marriage. Divorce removes that foundation. So, parents must work together to create a new foundation.
Honoring traditions begins that process. Ongoing traditions teach children that, while a major piece of life is changing, other aspects go on. This security helps children navigate the transition into life after divorce. You can do this in a couple of ways.
First, ask your children which family traditions matter most. Then, work to keep these. Whether it’s the trip to the farm to cut down the Christmas tree or attending a special event–when you preserve key ties to the past, you help your children move forward.
At the same time, create new traditions to define the homes your children now have with each parent. As each parent creates a new family identity within their homes, your children discover a fresh basis for security, still founded on their relationship with you, but in a new way.
One father took this to heart, and his creativity saved Christmas for both parents. He knew his children’s mother loved Christmas and would deeply grieve those years the children came to his house if they rotated the holiday. So, he gave her Christmas. He took New Years.
Each year he took his children to a cabin on New Year’s Eve. They entered to find a fully decorated tree with presents from Santa lining the base. Over the years, the children looked expectantly to equally special days with both parents.
You work hard to bring magic to your children’s holidays. After divorce, the greatest magic comes from honoring each other while building special memories in each home.
If you would like more information on how to protect your children while navigating divorce and life after divorce, call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We look forward to serving you.