The holidays can be stressful. There are more activities to attend and more responsibilities to take care of and, as a result, emotions tend to heighten. Holidays after a major family change are even more intense as everyone anticipates what the transition will look and feel like. Your children will probably wonder how the holidays will be different from what they’ve always known.
You can help them in their anticipation by planning with them the specifics of what will happen, when, and with whom. It may help younger children to make a calendar, tracking “mom” and “dad” days. If your holidays have typically been family-focused, then talk with your children about creating some new traditions. Ask them what makes the holidays special, and try to keep those things in mind as you plan your budget and schedule. Then look for new ways to celebrate. This year, that will mean finding a different day to celebrate Christmas together. It could also include gathering with other families with children for a party or group outing. It might be a new tradition, such as a holiday movie night. Or it might mean finding a way to serve others together by collecting food or toys for families in need. Involving your kids in helping another family can build cohesiveness within your family system as well as give them the positive experience of serving others.
Also allow your children to grieve the loss of not having their other parent around during special times. The more they’re able to openly express their sadness or anger, the more quickly they can begin to find a sense of healing and learn to cope with their new family dynamic.
Finally, when it comes to considering the holidays, the most important gift you can give your kids is to work with their mother/father for their benefit. Divorce is an adult decision, but it has life-changing consequences for children. Working with your ex-spouse to make things as smooth as possible for the kids should be your common goal. In practice, this means addressing anger and choosing to forgive your ex-spouse for past hurts. It may also mean asking forgiveness for your own faults.
And while you will certainly miss your children during their time away, try to remain positive and supportive of the visit with their mom/dad so that they won’t feel guilty about enjoying themselves with him. Make your own plans and let the kids know that you’ll be doing fun things with others, so they won’t worry about leaving you alone. Seek out other spiritual adults for support in your healing, not your children. And if you or your kids seem to be stuck in grief, seek counseling through your church or a professional Christian counselor.
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