How to Help Kids Get Thru the Holidays during Divorce

Learn how to help kids get thru the holidays during a divorce or separation in this Howcast video about child anxiety issues.

I am Dr. Robin Goodman and I am here to talk to you about how to help children navigate the holidays when there is a divorce or it’s a split family. I think anyone who is in that situation is already dealing with a stressful situation and they are trying to figure out the best way to handle any everyday situation not just a holiday situation with children. I think the number one thing that parents need to think about is that it’s about the children and not about them. It probably goes for everything about the divorce or the split or whatever is going on, but if they can keep that in mind that will help them. So whenever there is tension between the adult parties, for the holidays, they can think about but what’s best for my children and hopefully have a little bit of a truce for the holidays if not the whole year. Now when it comes to the holidays for the children that are in these kinds of situations you have to remember it may be a little different if it’s the first holiday or if it’s the tenth holiday or the twentieth holiday.

There may be more raw new feelings that the kids are struggling with and that you are still maneuvering and navigating or it may be some past things that are still unresolved for the family and the children. So think about what stage you are at and what stage your children are at in accepting and understanding the situation. The next thing you always have to realize that age makes a difference, a two or a three or a five year old that has to figure out how to go back and forth and plan different places to stay and be it’s a little than a teenager who may be having their own sense of independence and wanting to make some decisions about that. So again think about this in terms of the age of your child not just the situation that presents itself. Now when you are thinking about what exactly to do with the holidays, first of all think about what’s the most important thing. Is it the tradition, is it the time together, is there something for your family or for one person’s family is so important that you want to have your children there for it but that maybe in conflict with another parent’s traditions and at the end of the day you want to think about what can I give up or negotiate in terms of what might just be easiest for the children. Again think about what might be… what you always want to keep in mind is that children sometimes feel very conflicting themselves.

They sometimes want to please everybody and so you want to be very careful that whatever happens, whatever decisions are made you will support those children and that decision and that everybody will be positive. Because when you model a positive accepting solution to what can be a stressful situation then it shows children that you will be there for them in a very non-judgmental, positive supportive way. One thing you can consider is involving the children and giving them choice and you want to make sure that the choices are realistic choices, it may not be you want to go to mom or you want to go to dad but if the parents have decided part of the day is with mom and part of the day is with dad, maybe the children get to decide what they do when they are there or what time they go. So that maybe something where they get to feel that they were part of this and they still have a say in what’s happening in their lives with the family. You know in spite of whatever you do you want to always be prepared that the holiday can be stressful and there maybe some new difficult emotions and tensions that arise and as long as you communicate with each other in terms of the adults that will help the children and you also want to be careful that you minimize whatever additional stress there is by planning ahead, thinking about not making too many new changes, not necessarily introducing a new partner into this situation for the first time.

So I think you want to help plan and be careful about how you consider your children’s feelings first, even though it might be a special time for you and you might be excited about something new in your life, children often need the routine and the predictability of a holiday and their tradition when other parts of their life have become a little more unpredictable.