Navigating the Holidays with Kids after Separation: A Guide to Support and Celebration! - Collaborative Family Law Association of St. Louis

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Navigating the Holidays with Kids after Separation: A Guide to Support and Celebration!

Nicole Pace

Planning and participating in the holidays after a separation can be challenging, especially for children adapting to two homes. It can be hard to focus on the children’s needs as both parents are also adjusting to this new reality.   

Holidays hold varied significance – while some are about grand celebrations and family gatherings, others might just be about relaxation and acknowledgment. When parents establish separate households, the constant remains their love for their children, though kids may need time adjusting to the new living dynamics.

Studies emphasize the importance of working together as co-parents during and post-divorce. It greatly aids children in navigating their own emotional journey. The underlying message should always be, “Your well-being is our priority, and we will unite for you.”

Here are some insights for co-parents navigating the holiday season:

  1. Prioritize Comfort: If you’re anxious, children pick up on it. Ensure you create moments during festive times that assure them of their importance in your life. The message to them should be, "Your happiness is vital to me, regardless of the occasion.”
  • Promote Kindness: Encourage your child to show warmth towards the other parent. Maybe help them pick out a gift or write a note. Be sure to do it genuinely, without expecting the favor to be returned. Children should feel, "Despite the changes, my parents respect and are kind to one another for me.”
  • Reinforce Unconditional Love: Remember, children love both parents. In separate households, they might worry about displaying affection for or discussing their experience at the home of one parent in front of the other. Assure them, "Your love for both of us is cherished and understood.”
  • Make Sacrifices, Silently: It might be tough, but sometimes you'll need to forgo your wishes for your child's happiness. These sacrifices, especially during the first holiday season in separate homes, speak volumes. Children need to feel, "Both my parents are making efforts so I can have time with them.”
  • Celebrate Teamwork: Whenever possible, show that you’re working in tandem with your co-parent. It doesn’t mean sharing every detail with the child, but occasionally stating, "Your mom/dad and I decided…” can be reassuring. They should know, "Even apart, my parents come together for my sake.”

Thinking about ways to support your children as they begin living in two homes and making new traditions and experiences for them and for yourself can be one way to lessen the stress of divorce. Doing this will acknowledge that a divorce impacts parents and children. Celebrating some holidays will look different for everyone, and it is important to remind each other that positive new traditions can also be made.

Happy holidays.

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