Photo courtesy of MSU Law
Modern times have delivered to us the alternative family, including but not limited to ex-spouses, step-parents, and step siblings. During the holiday season, children and families may experience confusion, distress, or tension.
For many, the picturesque holiday of families celebrating with food and gifts, with mom, dad, son, and daughter joined under one roof has been displaced. Today, over one-third of all marriages end in divorce as reported by the National Center for Health Statistics. Many children now celebrate their holidays under several different roofs and possibly with more than one mom or dad, creating the potential for the holidays to be difficult and stressful times for children and parents of divorce.
In addition to the typical holiday stress, often children of divorced families are under even more anxiety and grief. Often, the holidays are a time for reminiscing. Many children find it difficult to cope with memories of when their parents were together. Marriage and Family Therapists can help parents and their children create a season that reignites a sense of excitement, celebration, and joy. Here are some tips to help children enjoy the holidays:
- Stick with a routine. It is important for children to have a sense of stability and predictability during the holiday season.
- Make a plan. Communicate to your ex-spouse or co-parent beforehand about holiday plans and schedules with your children. For instance, a rotation of Christmas and Thanksgiving every other year is one option, as is Christmas Eve with one parent and Christmas Day with another. Also, it is important for co-parents to put their schedules in writing, perhaps facilitated by a divorce lawyer, so there is no confusion about who gets which holiday and when.
- Orchestrate the giving of gifts. Know what the other parent is giving your child and give your gifts accordingly. Avoid double gifts and ones that “out-do” the other parent.
- Above all, let children love their parents. Allow your children to keep in touch with your co-parent even while in your care.
The holidays can be a time for feasting, laughter, and happy memories after all. Remember, as a parent, you have the responsibility to create for your child a most joyful holiday season, and with the proper support system and professional help, you and your family can celebrate the season with ease and enjoyment.
Article courtesy of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT)