Post-Divorce Holidays: How to Help Your Kids Deal
When there is a divorce in the family, the holidays can be especially rough. During a time typically reserved for family gatherings, it can be difficult to confront the major change in a nuclear unit. Often, kids have to split time between two households, and the traditions that you used to do as a family are no longer the same. The adjustment can be difficult for everyone involved.
While the big change was necessary for the marriage, seeing your kids unhappy during this time of year is difficult. For a newly-single father, the holidays can bring up feelings of guilt. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to these difficult emotions, but there are general dos and don’ts that may help lead the way.
Holiday Dos and Don’ts for Newly Single Fathers
Open and honest communication is a great place to start– but remember, it is a two way street. Your kids can’t read your mind any more than you can read theirs. However, they may pick up on your feelings and the vibes you are putting out there. When you don’t talk to your kids about how you are feeling, those vibes are open for interpretation. Instead of putting your kids through a guessing game, talk with them and encourage honesty in communication. If you have trouble with this, family therapy can be a huge help. Having a mediator in the room that can help facilitate conversation and check emotional responses teaches a family how to communicate in a healthy way.
DON’T: Use this time to introduce them to a new partner.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking a relationship post-divorce, but the holidays are not a great time to introduce your kids to a new person in your life. Eventually, introducing your kids to them should happen, but during the holidays, emotions are high. Bringing a new girlfriend/boyfriend/partner into the situation makes it ripe for conflict.
If you want to celebrate the holidays with your new partner, plan something when the kids are with your ex. Your children may see them as a distraction for attention, and your kids should always come first.
DO: Plan wholesome holiday activities.
When you do have your children during the holidays, have a roster of family-friendly activities you can do together. Staying active and having fun can help ease the anxiety that comes with divorce while also providing opportunities for your kids to feel comfortable and open up. Some fun things to do include:
- Gift shopping for loved ones
- Cozying up by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa
- Going caroling in the neighborhood
- Volunteering for a local nonprofit
- Making holiday crafts
- Making snow angels
- Ice skating
- Baking cookies
- Looking at holiday lights
- Watching holiday movies
DON’T: Spoil them with material things.
Sometimes, newly-divorced parents try to buy their kids’ affection with material things. While this can be especially tempting during the gift giving season, show some restraint. Your kids may appreciate the goods upon opening them, but it can hurt them in the long run. Work with your ex-partner to create boundaries for gift giving for the both of you. A mutual budget can help make sure things stay equal so you can buy them something that is a token of your affection rather than a bribe.
The holidays are a hard time for newly-divorced dads and their children. While there is no avoiding difficult emotions, there are coping strategies that can help. Open and honest communication is paramount– and remember, it goes both ways. Don’t use this time of year to introduce them to a new partner or try and buy their affection with gifts. Instead, take advantage of the wholesome activities that come with the holidays and spend quality time with your children.The holidays are a hard time for newly-divorced dads and their children. While there is no avoiding difficult emotions, there are coping strategies that can help. Click To Tweet
Daniel Sherwin is a single dad to 2 adorable kids. The last three years has been a learning process for him, but there are no regrets. Each day is a brand new adventure for them. Check out his posts on http://dadsolo.com/.