Children of divorced parents experience stresses that their friends living in two-parent nuclear families know nothing about. This is especially true over the holidays, a time when kids of all ages can yearn for the type of family unity they may only dimly remember.
Though it’s likely they won’t have the vocabulary to describe it as such, kids can feel melancholic or bittersweet when they remember other Christmases when Mommy and Daddy were still married and the whole family got together for rollicking celebrations with extended family members from both sides. It’s quite natural for them to miss these moments and feel sad amidst all the holiday hoopla.
Acknowledge their feelings
If you can see or sense that your child is depressed or sad at what used to be their favorite time of the year, spend some quiet time with them encouraging them to discuss their feelings. Let them know that it’s okay to miss the way things were, while pointing out that both parents still love them, and that will never change.
Begin new holiday traditions together
It’s likely if you have shared custody with your ex that you may not get to spend all of the holidays with your children. Perhaps you are alternating with even-odd years, or if you live close to your ex, maybe he or she gets them through Christmas Eve while you have them from Christmas Day through New Year’s. Whatever your arrangements, it’s important to establish new family holiday traditions to reflect your new circumstances.
Learn to communicate with your ex
Instead of focusing on all the negatives that led to your divorce, remember that even the youngest children pick up on your feelings toward their other parent – whom they still love. Develop healthy methods of communication between each other. It’s not only better for all concerned now, but it teaches children how to cope with challenging relationships, a skill that’s useful at all phases of life.
Cherish the moments
Childhood is gone in the blink of an eye, so stay in the moment with your kids this holiday season. Decorate the cookies, read The Night Before Christmas and help young hands write their letters to Santa. Rediscover the joy of the holidays through your children’s eyes as you build lasting memories with them.
Nothing is written in stone
Remember, too, that the holiday custody arrangements that worked so well when your child was two may hit some stumbling blocks when he or she is 12. While you must abide by the judgment that is currently in effect, your family law attorney can assist you with obtaining a child custody modification that better reflects your child’s changing needs.