Holidays are a big deal for pretty much every family. Halloween, Easter, Independence day, all tug at family members, making us think of past celebrations and wondering about this year’s plans. But, of course, the biggies are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve; those are the ones that really feel like family events. In most every kind of family, these holidays mean reconnecting with loved ones.
Especially for kids, and especially after a divorce. In fact, often some of the earliest questions children wonder about when they learn of their parents’ plans to divorce (following the questions of Why? Where will I live? and Will you still love me?) are, “What about Christmas? Where will we open our presents? Will we still go to Grandma’s together? Who will fix Thanksgiving dinner?”
These can become crucial – and very emotional – issues for kids whose whole world seems to have fallen apart. When, they cry, will we get the normal back to our family?!
And, oddly enough, the older kids get more upset about holiday traditions, since they have experienced more family get-togethers than younger children have. Even the sullen teenager who last year just sat alone, texting friends and listening to his/her playlist instead of participating in games and storytelling, suddenly becomes adamant that they get to spend time with neglected grandparents, aunts & uncles, and weird cousins.
Why, in the midst of confusion trying to recover from divorce pressures and paperwork, are your kids choosing now to get fussy about seeing people they ignored before? It just seems like one more drama production for you to handle. Are they just trying to break you?
Because, in the shock of seeing their family broken and wondering what foundations they have left, even those annoying family traditions previously about as important as a forgotten old box in the attic become dear old friends. One more dinner at Grandma’s house with Mom and Dad both together seems like the most precious dream for a child who is coming to realize they may never see their parents together again.
If this is the first holiday season after the divorce, this is an extremely important time. Your children will look on this as an indication of how the next several years will go. And they will look back at this season through the years as the way their new life started out. Give them a good memory and hope for the future years.
So, what do your children need from you this year, during these coming holidays?
They need you to build a sense of calm, to keep the drama to a bare minimum.
Try to let your kids do as many of the activities they cherish as possible – visiting the grandparents, attending the Nutcracker, driving around together to see the lights on the houses, getting back together with cousins – even aunts and uncles.
And, throughout it all, as much as is possible, keep your side of the agreement to focus on peace with your child’s other parent. Even if you ex acts like a jerk, YOU can demonstrate how you wish you both should act, and lead your children toward a happy time.