by: Amie Greenberg, JD and Barbara Greenberg, MD
The thought of spending the holidays alone or without your children can be stressful for any family. Add a divorce and it can be traumatic. Children also feel the stress of the holidays. Here are some tips on helping your children through the holidays using a four-step “PACE” Process.
P is for: PLANNING AND POSITIVE NEW TRADITIONS.
- Plan Ahead. Planning the holiday schedule in advance reduces the chances for miscommunication; gives parents the opportunity to iron out any conflicts and allows for both parents to plan special events.
- Plan Something Special. Plan something special for the children over the holidays, so they have something to look forward to with each parent.
- Plan some “Me” time. Take time to rest, relax and recuperate over the holidays. Whether it is a vacation, reading a book, visiting with friends or exercising – make certain to take time for yourself.
- Positive Aspects and New Traditions. Focus on the fact that your children have two parents that love them and that both parents will spend time with the children over the holidays. Involve your children, in planning and experiencing new events and new holiday traditions.
A is for: ACKNOWLEDGE SADNESS AND DIFFERENCES.
- Acknowledge The Sadness. Anytime there is a life changing event such as a divorce, family traditions and routines change. Children see the family unit as broken and not whole, which brings sadness. With your children, recognize and acknowledge that it is sad that you will not be together as a family unit over the holidays.
- Acknowledge That Things Are Different and Talk About It. The disruption of holiday and family traditions is difficult. Children generally want to be with both parents over the holidays. Help your children deal with these emotions by talking about the changes.
C is for: COOPERATION AND COMMUNICATION.
- Cooperation and Flexibility. Try to cooperate with scheduling and have added flexibility over the holidays. Inevitably, unexpected events occur or family members decide to visit last minute. Although you have a schedule and may have planned in advance, allow for changes in the schedule to accommodate the other parent and reduce conflict.
- If possible, do something special with the children with or for the other parent. It could be lunch or dinner with the parents and children together or buying a holiday card or gift for the other parent. Although simple, this sends a positive message to the children about the other parent.
- Communication. Allow for Open Communication – if one parent is not permitted to communicate with the children over the holidays, it can lead to conflict. Provide reasonable phone and or Skype communication with the other parent. This is an easy way of co-parenting and reducing conflict.
E is for: Encourage and Empower.
- Encourage your children to talk about their feelings and what they want over the holidays.
- Encourage your children to enjoy holiday time with the other parent. Children often feel divided and torn in a divorce. Give your children the permission to enjoy holiday time with the other parent so your children look forward to their time with each parent. You divorced the other parent, but your children have a right to love, have a healthy relationship and enjoy their time with the other parent. This means you should not say negative things about the other parent, try to “outdo” the other parent or interfere with plans or special events.
- Empower. Empower your children by giving them a voice and a say in what they might want over the holidays.
Amie Greenberg, JD, MBA and her mother Barbara Greenberg, MD, authored the “I Am Divorced … But I’m Still Me: A Child’s View of Divorce - Nick’s Story” and “I Am Divorced … But I’m Still Me: A Child’s View of Divorce - Julianna’s Storybooks after personally and professionally experiencing the impact of divorce. They recognized a need to acknowledge how children viewed their world before, during and after divorce. Their hope is to help other families who are going through the pain of divorce. You can contact Amie at email@example.com" and Barbara at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow them on FB at http://tinyurl.com/buwe2gk http://tinyurl.com/bodu2b2 and Twitter@4childofdivorce. Amie and Barbara are contributing experts atDivorcesupportcenter.com, FamilyShare.com, CupidsPulse.com, LAFamily.com and Familyaffaires.com.