The holidays are approaching and with it the normal amount of family, food, and stress that go along with it. However, if you have a child and are recently separated or divorced from your child’s other parent, understanding and helping the stress your child will undoubtedly feel during this time is important. For you, it may be a sense of relief to not be sharing the holiday with your former spouse and his or her family. If you are the child though of recently divorced or separated parents, the holidays can bring confusion and a sense of sadness in not sharing the day with both parents. The following tips can help reduce some of the anxiety, questions, and hurt that your child may be feeling.
- Avoid Duplication. Avoid trying to duplicate holiday meals and activities to outshine the other parent. While it is nice for a child to be able to spend the morning of the holiday with one parent and the afternoon or evening with the other parent, depending on the age of the child, it can also be exhausting. Imagine having a big Thanksgiving meal in the morning, only to have an equally big Thanksgiving meal later in the afternoon. If you share parenting time for the day with your former partner, consider establishing who will do the main holiday meal, and then agree to alternate it each year.
- Prepare a Holiday Dish with Your Child. Make a holiday dish together that the child can bring to the other parent’s house. Assuming that you and your former partner can communicate about issues involving the child, if you are not spending time with the child for the holiday or the major meal of the day, request that you be permitted to help the child make a food item to send with them to the other house. For example, if you have the child in the morning, or the day before Thanksgiving, perhaps make a pumpkin pie with the child that the child can then bring with them to their other home. Showing that the parents can do things with the child that may be beneficial to the other parent helps reduce the stress and anxiety that children sometimes feel about leaving one parent behind on a holiday.
- Keep your own Emotions in Check. Be careful to make sure your own emotions are in check. Nothing is worse for a child when they believe that the other parent will be left alone on a holiday. Even if you have no place to go, assure the child that you are going to be fine, that you want them to have a good time and know that they will.
- Make the Holiday your Own. Remember holidays are only a date on the calendar. While it is natural to want to spend every holiday with your child, be careful not to put too much emphasis on one day. Be flexible where you can be for the sake of your child. Your child loves both parents and developing a healthy relationship with both parents is important. Thanksgiving does not have to be celebrated on the last fourth Thursday in November. Turkey is available in July as well. Consider making the holiday your own special day when it is not your parenting time for a specific holiday.
- Start New Traditions. Finally consider starting new traditions. This is a new start for both you and your child. Now is the perfect time to start a new tradition that becomes your special holiday time with your child.Following these simple guidelines can make the holiday less stressful for your child and you.