Dr. Amy Stark
Child Psychologist, Author & Speaker
Teaching Families How to Live Divorced
and Self-Esteem for Girls
Food For Thought
Holiday Tips For Parents
Holidays are for families to be together. They are magical times of giving and sharing special moments. When you are divorced, you can no longer spend the entire Christmas or Hanukkah season with your children. Chances are the custodial timeshare is that you have half of the time and you ex has the other half. Even if you wanted the divorce, not spending a part of the holiday with your children hits your heart. The shift in the family also impacts your children, who now must be shuttled back and forth instead of being home with everyone at the same time. There are some things that you can do to help your children remember the holidays in a positive way:
- Don't make the holiday about the divorce. If you are upset, your children will be upset also. Focus on the joy of the day and the delight of your children.
- Make plans for the time when your children will be with their other parent. If you are busy or have a purpose you will be less inclined to be sad and upset. Share with the children that you will be okay and have lots to do, but don't make them think that they are missing something by not being with you.
- Make new traditions for the time that the children will be sharing the holiday with you. Start something new that they will now come to associate with your time together. It does not need to be something elaborate, it could be something as simple as enjoying a holiday dvd together and sharing hot cocoa.
- Don't make it harder for the kids. When you keep them up too late so that their other parent gets exhausted kids for the exchange it is unhealthy behavior on your part. Get the kids to bed so that they aren't too exhausted to enjoy the next day.
- Do not have the kids open presents right before they have to leave. All this means is that they see what great stuff they have and now they have to leave everything and go somewhere else. Open presents earlier so that they have an opportunity to play with them before they have to go.
- Try not to play gift one-upmanship. When you hear the ex is getting something try not to then go out and get the same thing, only better. Stop and think first---what are you teaching them exactly with this behavior?
- Don't make a scene at the exchange. Make it pleasant for the sake of the kids. Wish your ex happy holidays and wave nicely. Don't flip your ex off, your kids can see you and it upsets them.
- Control the environment. Don't let friends and family members make derogatory comments about the other parent. Even if they they think they are doing it out of earshot of the kids, often kids hear it all and find it upsetting.
- Let the kids know upfront that mom's gifts belong at mom's and dad's gifts belong at dads. If the kids know things have to stay (with the exception of transitional items that usually go back and forth or small toys that don't really have to be returned), then its lots easier then trying to get gifts left at the other parent's house, back later.
- Try to emphasize giving. With two households now buying gifts your children might be lavished with extra gifts. Try to promote thankfulness and an opportunity for your children to give something to less fortunate children.
Dr. Stark's Web site is not intended to take the place of a court-ordered advice or the advice of another professional. Although you may use the input found here to your best advantage, we recommend that you do so in conjunction with the work that you are doing with your individual therapist. Remember: this Web site is not therapy; it's knowledge and support.
Psychologist License PSY7828, California213 E City Place Drive
Santa Ana, CA 92705