When They Don’t Want to During the Holidays
by: Michele Sfakianos, RN, BSN
One of the hardest things you will have to do as a divorced parent is to encourage your children to go with your ex when they don’t want to.
As long as they aren’t avoiding going due to some type of neglect or abuse your job is to encourage them to go. Some children just don’t do well with change so the transition is quite difficult. You will be doing your children a favor if you work to make it as smooth as possible.
Don’t let your own anxiety over them leaving show. If your children feel that you aren’t okay with them going to see their other parent then they aren’t going to be happy about it. Let them know that you will miss them while they are away but you are glad that they are going to be able to spend time with their other parent. If you know things that are planned for that time then remind them so they have something great to look forward to.
It may be a good idea for you to keep your plans to yourself about what you are doing while the children are gone. If they feel like you are doing something fun without them they may not want to go see their other parent. If they ask you what you will be doing let them know the basic things such as cleaning, working, reading a book, those types of things that they see you take part in all the time.
Let your child take items to the other parent’s home that are familiar. This can be pictures, games, a blanket, or even a stuffed animal to sleep with. Too many parents have set limits that what is at their home has to stay there. This set up isn’t one that benefits the children, though, in any way.
If you have set days where you and your ex-spouse trade off the children, let them know what it will be. You can let them help to mark the days on the calendar that they will be with each parent. This will make it less confusing for them, especially if the parents have joint custody. This will mean there is more back and forth than when one parent only gets to have the children every other weekend.
Help your child to prepare for being with the other parent. You can give them gentle reminders such as telling them that tomorrow they will be going with their mom or their dad. You can also let them know a couple hours before the transition will take place. Try to have a mutual agreement with your ex that the children can call either parent when they want to. This way you can remind them they can give you a call later to tell you how they are doing.
It can be difficult at times to put on the smile and encourage your children to go with the other parent. Yet it is something you need to do for them to be happy with the transition. Some children only have such anxiety when they are going from one parent to the other. Others experience it with both exchanges as it is the change that bothers them.
By attempting to have some consistency at both homes though, it will help children to get past such issues. While divorce isn’t going to be easy for them, they are going to need the love and support of both parents to get them through it.
Michele Sfakianos, RN, BSN, is a contributing expert for Hope After Divorce and Divorce Support Center. She is a registered Nurse, Life Skills Expert, Speaker, and Award Winning Author. She is the owner of Open Pages Publishing, which includes her series of “The 4-1-1” books on Life Skills, Step Parenting, and Surviving Teenhood. Michele is a contributing expert for HopeAfterDivorce.org, DivorceSupportCenter.com, FamilyShare.com, and CupidsPulse.com.