Christmas is a sentimental time of the year. For many divorced parents it’s a painful reminder of the gap between the ideal family life we had wanted and the reality of the strains and severed relationships that are a part of divorce and separation. Here are some tips on how a parent can cope this time of year:
- Make plans for the holidays with your ex well in advance. If this is not a part of your separation agreement or if this is a difficult topic consider mediation. Children need stability and predictability. Advance planning helps them get their head around how the holiday will unfold and should reduce any potential anger and anxiety.
- Try alternating years so that both parents get the joy of opening gifts on Christmas day.
- If your children are travelling with the other parent over the holiday, create a “mock Christmas” to be celebrated like the real thing with all the traditions such as Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree, just held on a different date
- If this is the first Christmas you are not together as a family, try creating new traditions so that you don’t experience the absence of one parent while doing all the same ole holiday things. Ask your children for input. My kids wanted all new ornaments on the Christmas tree as a “fresh new start” so as to not look sentimentally at the family ornaments from the past.
- If this is your first Christmas alone without your children, reach out to your extended family and join their festivities. You should have supportive people around you. You could volunteer at a shelter or visit friends, basically anything is better than being home alone and sad.
- You can’t win a child’s love with material objects. Yes, it’s gratifying to see the look of joy on your child’s face as they open gifts, but don’t try to outdo or compensate/apologize with gifts.
- It’s generally not recommended that you include your new partner in the first family Christmas since the divorce/separation. If you are in a serious relationship, ask you children how they would feel if you invited your new friend over for some part of the day. Their reaction will give you your answer.
About the Author:
Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine. Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”. She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com