How to Handle the Holidays With Children After a Divorce
When you set aside your wedding ring for divorce, everything can seem like it’s spinning. But once the dust starts to settle, it’s time to figure out how to handle the holidays with your kids after your “divorce.” Don’t feel alone, either; the numbers show that in 2017 alone, there were nearly one million divorces in the United States, and anywhere from 40-50% of American married couples end up divorced. So there is no need to feel like a failure or an outcast if your marriage recently ended in a divorce during the holidays. Yes, this may be a difficult time, and there is no shame in that. It is fully possible to find ways to stay on civil terms with your ex-spouse and children alike, and of you all focus on the holidays and what you have in common, this winter holiday can be a cheerful one after all. A divorce during the holidays can be handled with all kinds of strategies.
Talk With Your Lawyer
If you are getting a divorce during the holidays, and child custody or living arrangements are proving to be tricky, consulting your lawyer is often the best route to take. Family lawyers have a great deal of expertise in this area, and if you have not already hired one for your divorce during the holidays, this may be the time. Fortunately, they are fairly easy to find, and you can look for local law firms online and get consultations from the lawyers working at each one (this may or may not incur a fee). Choose a lawyer whose personality, expertise, and experience are to your liking, and they can help you navigate your divorce during the holidays just fine. For example, most likely you and your spouse are living in two different places, and children under the age of 18 may be a matter of contention.
Ask a family lawyer what is best for the children, rather than what is best for you, as they may be the most vulnerable members of the divorcing household. Younger children may be confused and upset, and this is natural. So, with the aid of a family lawyer for divorce during the holidays, it may soon be decided who will live where, and why. While nothing can be guaranteed here, a household with a steady and substantial income may be quite appealing for the child, and the household may be one that is close to a good school, parks, and other amenities. Of course, you may be consulting lawyers for other aspects of the divorce as well, such as ownership of a house or a vehicle.
It may also be noted that some divorces are mediated, and may not require a lawyer at all. Mediated divorces are low-intensity, and the two divorcing spouses may handle their own negotiations for a divorce during the holidays, or indeed any other time. These spouses get along well enough to divide their assets and set the divorce’s terms personally, though they may also hire a mediator to help keep the conversation smooth and productive.
Keep Some Old Family Traditions
Let’s move on to more cheery topics for a divorce during the holidays. After all, it is the holidays, and even divorce does not have to completely ruin the festivities. While every case is different, some households can carry on their holiday traditions just fine even during a divorce. Religious observations may be a fine place to start, and Christian households may use their faith and the Christian holiday as a way to maintain their strength of spirit and optimism however they like. The family may attend church, for example, and rest assured that they are all being watched over and that they are all loved. Households that observe Hanukkah may do something similar, and turn to their faith for guidance and to strengthen their resolve. It may be possible for someone’s faith to put the unpleasantness of a divorce during the holidays into perspective, and that can make all the difference.
Any household, meanwhile, can maintain any other traditions that they have for the winter holiday time, and many families have developed their own style. Often, a nearby relative with a large house may host a gathering for extended family, and the divorcing household can take part in that. Being around many other family members who love and support everyone can be a soothing balm for the mind, and keep things in perspective. Of course, any family members unaware of the divorce may be informed of it, so that they do not steer the conversation in incorrect directions. No one actually has to mention the divorce during the holidays out loud, but if they’re aware of it, that can avoid any awkward situations.
Communicate With Your Kids
As mentioned earlier, divorce during the holidays, or during any other time, in fact, can be stressful and confusing for younger children in your household. Older teenagers and young adults may have enough worldly wisdom and emotional maturity to handle it somewhat better, but even they may need some support, too. During a divorce, it’s best to check in with all of your children regularly, and not make too many presumptions about what they are thinking. Children are known to experience many of the same mental afflictions as adults, such as depression, anxiety, and more, but there are ways to help address this.
First of all, many children may feel ashamed of their divorcing household, and they might even blame themselves for what is happening. They may try to hide the divorce from their classmates or friends, and that can induce pressure on them. And if their peers do know about the divorce, your children might face ridicule or teasing. Therefore, be sure that both you and your spouse speak to all of your children about this, and help them get a better handle on the situation. For one, assure them that the divorce is not their fault and that you and your spouse do not love your children any less because of what is happening. Sometimes, children might incorrectly think that one or both of their parents has stopped loving them during a time like this.
Signs of depression, anxiety, and general mental distress are something to watch out for, and they might slip past your notice at first as you are preoccupied with the divorce itself. A child, like an adult, might become socially isolated at home, at school, and elsewhere, and withdraw inwards. They might also lose interest in their hobbies abruptly, and their school grades might suffer, too. Children might become emotionally brittle and have outbursts, and they might even lash out or perform reckless acts to draw attention to themselves.
How to prevent this, or put a stop to it if it already started? Children can and should get emotional support whenever they need it, and that starts with you and your divorcing spouse. Make it clear to the children that both of you are safe and open for communication, and that the children do not have to take sides or love one parent at the expense of the other. Even if the marriage is ending, you and your spouse will always be the children’s parents, and that may be what they care about the most. It’s important to clear the air! What is more, professional therapy and counseling services are available for children as well as adults, and a child may explain their distress and confusion to an unrelated adult who can offer them sincere guidance and direction.
Let Your Kids Pick An Activity
With any luck, the divorcing household is in shape to enjoy the spirit of the holidays, and that means that the family can have fun together as children and parents. If you’re trying to decide on some things to do this season, why not ask the children? This can go a long way toward cheering them up and occupying them since the family will do something or go somewhere that the child likes. Not only that, but the child may feel more secure when they are allowed to make some decisions and control something. Children often feel helpless during a divorce, but deferring to them for fun daytime activities can help counteract that feeling. Besides, it’s possible that your bad mood makes it difficult to come up with fun activities, and your child’s ideas might surprise you! Children are often more creative and resourceful than they are given credit for, and a child’s idea for holiday fun may be just what you needed.
What to do? A child might pick out “typical” interests for someone their age, or they may choose something based on where the family lives or the child’s own interests. A middle schooler who loves soccer may ask their parents to take them to a local game, and the same is true for hockey, basketball, baseball, anything like that. Cheering on a team in a crowded stadium can help everyone’s divorce anxiety melt away for an afternoon. Besides sports, your child might want to visit a local fair or amusement park, and that can be a lot of fun, too.
Smaller-scale activities are possible as well, from visiting the mall and checking out the lovely holiday decorations to seeing a movie in the theaters to eating out at the child’s favorite restaurant. If your area gets enough snow and ice, your child might enjoy an ice skating rink or go sledding on snowy hills. When ice skating, make sure everyone is safe (to avoid a slip and fall incident). Smaller children might need you to hold their hands and guide them along with slow movements, while a more skilled teenager might handle themselves and even show off a bit. Whatever cheers them up!
One thing to note: some divorcing parents might simply shower their children with holiday gifts, but bear in mind that older children might see through this. What is more, it is often agreed that children ultimately measure their parents’ love through the amount of time spent together, rather than the number of toys bought for them. Strike a balance between decorations, gifts, and quality time.
Whether or not your child speaks to a family counselor, they can also turn to any counseling services available at their school. Different schools vary, but schools with moderate to high levels of funding are likely to have some quality counseling services on hand for all students. The best elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools are aware that children sometimes suffer from problems at home such as divorce, or bullying at school. So you, as the parent, may check-in and contact your child’s school and ensure that any and all of your children enrolled there are getting the attention they need. If need be, you can inform them of the divorce, and possibly explain any depression or anxiety symptoms you have observed in your child at home. From there, the school’s guidance counselor can give your child any support and guidance that they require. What is more, individual teachers may be informed of the divorce as well, and they can offer any support they can for the child as well and intervene if the child is bullied or teased because of it.
Get Festive in Your New Home
Every divorce turns out differently, and perhaps your spouse moved out, or you are the one who is in a new residence. Either way, your household will be smaller, but that doesn’t have to cut into the holiday cheer. If everyone has the emotional support that they need for this difficult time, they can muster the cheer for Christmas, Hanukkah, or general winter festivities. Many families have their own decorations on hand, from personalized wall decor to garland, an artificial fir tree, ornaments, large stockings, Santa models, menorahs, and the like, and feel free to get them out of storage like you would in any other year. Your child may cheer up a bit if you let them take a more active role in the decoration this year, and they can choose what goes where. You might also go shopping to find new decorations, and listen to your child’s input and see what they like the most.