Celebrating Holidays – Divorce Style
Holidays can be brutal for the children of divorced parents. Kids often feel incomplete. If the children spend most of the time with you and your partner, they will no doubt feel torn about not being with poor Mom or Dad. Try to respect the fact the kids are thinking of their other biological parent and their nostalgia for the past is not a direct shot at you.
Virtually all kids have these fantasies, especially around the holidays. The kids like the idea of their parents together, even if in reality their parents cannot spend two minutes in a room together without making the children want to run off to the nearest closet and cry.
Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, your birthday—there are lots of opportunities for feeling down about being a divorced parent. But do not give in. An attitude will get you nothing but grief. Moping around because no one remembers your birthday is not fair. You have to tell people, “Hey, my birthday is on Friday and I want us to all go out to dinner.” Tell everyone birthdays are important to you, and strongly suggest your partner (or ex-partner) talk to the kids about acknowledging it.
Before special events or days which are important to you, take the initiative:
• Be clear about your plans. Anticipate problems and discuss them with the children.
• Tell them your expectations. People are not mind readers. Talk with your ex-partner.
• Do not expect a major deal about Mother’s or Father’s Day. The kids feel conflicted enough as it is. Acknowledging it is important, but celebrating it may be too painful.
• Yes, of course it hurts to be ignored or snubbed. Try to understand the positive intent behind it. It is not meant to hurt you. It is about guilt and loyalty to the other biological parent.
Holidays are influenced with rituals (and rituals are not considered rituals unless you do them over and over) we all expect certain things to happen during the holidays. But what happens when the rituals change? We’re still expecting them. If not careful, we will find ourselves back with the feelings of disappointment and pain.
The longer you are divorced, the easier the holidays will feel as you develop your own rituals and traditions. But at first, the crunch of expectations and disappointment can make holidays rough. Each of you in your family has an internal sense of what feels right for the holidays, and this sense is built from your past experiences.
Every family does things slightly different, even if celebrating the same holidays. Incorporate change slowly and include the children in on the planning. Help them to understand that when families combine, it creates a new opportunity for new traditions and new celebrations. The children will be more apt to participate if they feel included. Just remember – change takes time, patience, and love.
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Registered Nurse, Award-winning Author, Leading Authority on Parenting, Speaker and Professional Copywriter.