Parenting Tips for Surviving The Post Divorce Holidays

Helping your child through the post-divorce holidays can be challenging.

By Brette Sember, J. D.

It's likely that you're having a difficult time coping with the season yourself, which makes it even harder to focus on what your child is experiencing. Follow these tips to help your child survive and to keep your own sanity.

Be sympathetic

Your child is going to be sad and miss the other parent when holidays are spent with you, no matter how often he sees the other parent. It can be easy to take this as a slap in the face, or a judgment that you're not enough. Instead of getting upset, think about how your child feels and offer comfort and understanding. It will take time for your child to adjust.

Don't force family gatherings

Many separated or divorced parents find that it helps their kids if they can share part of the holidays together as one big family. However, just because this works for other families, doesn't mean it has to work for yours. If you're not comfortable, don't do it. Your child will be happier if she is not subjected to arguments, snide remarks or other hurtful behavior.

Remember that gifts don't make up for the divorce

Christmas stockings hung on the fireplace mantel

Getting your child the latest and greatest might make you feel like a good parent, but it can't make up for the divorce. Showering your child in gifts, or worse - competing with the other parent to give the best gift, just creates an artificial and uncomfortable situation.

Give gifts that fit your budget and your comfort level and know that your child can't love you more than he already does. There are plenty of other ways to show your love to your child, so focus on these rather than material ways.

Make plans for time alone

It's likely that your child will spend part of the holiday with the other parent. Instead of feeling depressed and sad, use this time to do something wonderful for yourself, or to make plans for the next time your child is with you. Be sure you don't make your child feel guilty for leaving you to be with the other parent.

Buy yourself a gift

Particularly if your child is young, this year you need to plan to buy yourself a gift. In the past, you may have relied upon your spouse to put some presents under the tree for you. This year, it's up to you. Wrap them if you feel like it and feel free to tell your child they came from Santa. The end of your relationship does not mean you don't deserve gifts.

Help your child buy a gift

Take your child shopping for, or help him or her make a gift for the other parent. This gift is not from you, but is from your child. Think of how pleased it will make your child to be able to offer a present to the other parent. Don't expect this to be reciprocated and you won't be disappointed.

Focus on making the most of what you have

It is easy to spend the holidays thinking about how the divorce has changed your life and your child's life. Instead, focus on enjoying and celebrating what you and your child do have. 

The following articles can also help you deal with other issues when you are facing the holidays after divorce: 

  1. Divorce
  2. Children and Divorce
  3. Holiday Survival Tips
  4. Surviving Post-Divorce Holidays