The holiday season is a magical time for children; filled with surprises and excitement. However this can also be an especially difficult time for kids whose parents are going through a separation. The realization that one parent might not be a part of the traditions as they once were can be devastating from a child’s perspective. There are ways in which parents can put their differences aside to be sure the holidays are stress-free. Although your family might be somewhat distressed having gone through a separation or divorce, your maturity, understanding, and compassion can help them enjoy this special time of the year.

1. Guide them towards a new perspective. Regardless of the child’s age, a separation can make them feel as though their world has imploded. Not only do they question their security and happiness, but they often blame themselves; which may give rise to feelings of shame and low self-esteem. Although adults are aware that relationships frequently fail, it is extremely difficult for children to grasp how things can work out in a positive way.

Help your child to look at the situation differently. Ask them what aspects of their lives will change. Remind them that their school, friends, other family members, and most aspects of their lives will remain unchanged. What can you do to shift everyone towards a positive outlook? Often times, children don’t realize that celebrations are dragged out even longer now that there are two parents to visit. Are there perks to the new home they will now be visiting? Help them find positive ways to view the holiday season and the family situation as a whole.

2. Encourage them to reminisce. If you want your children to adjust to a divorce with resiliency, it is important that they feel comfortable enough to speak positively about the other parent and family memories. Allowing them to share this freely and fondly will help them hang on to positive thoughts, and will reassure them that you still care for and respect one another. They will eventually come from a place of gratitude when thinking about good times. Ask them if they believe it is possible to create new memories even though their family looks different now. In time, and with positive experiences under their belts, they will find relief.

3. Do not speak ill of your ex. It will show a great deal of respect, maturity, and self-assurance if you can find ways to speak nicely about your ex. You might have built up resentment and feel deep anger towards them at times. Keep in mind, this can be detrimental to your child’s functioning. They might develop anxiety from being exposed to conflict, and they will feel tremendously uncomfortable and protective over the other parent. Although you might feel the urge to vent to your child about annoyances, this usually backfires, as the child will resent the more negative parent. Imagine how you might feel if someone spoke negatively about one of your parents. This feeling is intensified for children of divorce. You will often see an immediate sense of relief when your children hear you bring your ex into the conversation in a positive manner. It shows them that although their parents aren’t together any longer, they respect each other and are focused on a peaceful dynamic.

4. Put your differences aside. This is the perfect time of year to put your disagreements behind you. With all that is happening in the world lately, can you find a way to let go of what has bothered you for the sake of your children? Even if you feel betrayed, let down, or completely hopeless about your ex, don’t let these ill feelings get in the way of having a happy holiday.

What can you focus on to shift the way you think about your ex? What do you appreciate about them? Is it really worth hanging on to resentments if your children take on all of this negativity? Kids are much more perceptive than adults, and even if you aren’t verbalizing your opinions, they easily pick up on negative feelings. They are constantly trying to manage the aftermath of divorce, so how can you put them as a priority, find a new perspective, and focus on gratitude this holiday season?

5. Come together. Many divorced couples are able to place their children’s interests above their own and unite for special celebrations. They realize their children did not ask to be brought into a failed relationship and see the value in keeping important traditions. This may take time, a great deal of maturity, and effort. If you can come together and be completely peaceful, it would be ideal for your children to see you getting along for the sake of the family.

It is understandable if you don’t see this as a possibility, and it takes insight to recognize this might not be in your child’s best interest. Ask yourself if you can stand to spend time with your ex if it means more peace for your child. Imagine how happy it would make them to open grifts or have a meal with both of their parents present.

Children of divorce may be a lot more sensitive than other children, and it is as though their skin has been burned. How can you change your perspective, put your grievances behind you, and behave in a way that will create a lasting, positive memory for your children? When they are old enough to make sense of their parents’ relationship, they will feel a great deal of pride and respect for the way in which you chose to carry yourself. Make this holiday a memorable one, and show your children that divorce can provide an opportunity for everyone to show their best selves.

Alison Fosbery[su_heading style=”default” size=”13″ align=”left” margin=”20″ class=””]Alison Fosbery, MA RP is a Registered Psychotherapist practicing in the GTA. She takes pride in helping separated and divorced couples find peace in order to move forward in a healthy way. Alison has helped many families learn how to co-parent effectively in order to secure healthy development and growth.

To contact Alison please visit www.alisonfosbery.com, email: info@alisonfosbery.com or phone 416-899-0518.[/su_heading]