Kids and Holiday Traditions

In a previous post, we discussed getting through the holidays as a parent newly divorced with your children splitting time between yourself and your ex. You should also know that the difficultly of the holidays not only also extends to your ex, but also to your children. They are used to celebrating all together. The holidays have changed and so, too, have the traditions surrounding the holidays.

When it comes to traditions around the holidays, nobody likes change, least of all children who rely on those traditions to reinforce their versions of reality and stability.

This is not only difficult for young children, but also for older, or even adult children who are now adapting to this change in their lives.

If the kids look forward to visiting their maternal grandparents at Christmas only to find that their divorcing parents have arranged a different schedule for everyone, it could be quite unsettling.

For the little ones…

Focus on fun! Seriously, all those little rituals that you and your ex created throughout your marriage can be considered those ghosts of Christmas past. Some of them can be saved…making cookies, decorating a tree, watching Claymation holiday movies on Christmas eve. All are easy enough to replicate … but some of the minute details will have to be altered, and you better believe those kids will notice! Not using the special snowflake cookie cutter that you all bought on vacation one year? What about Grandma’s angel is always on top of the tree?

You can’t compete with that kind of history, so don’t even try. Please remember, you are not trying to “win” the holiday competition with your ex. You are trying to make the divorce easier on your children who love both of their parents and feel the change in family dynamics deeply. What you do want is to add some new little touches to some old traditions and some altogether new customs for those kids to remember.

In this spirit, may we suggest enlisting the help of your children in picking out these new additions to their holiday celebration? Taking a tot to the Holiday store to pick out new cookie cutters or special ornaments is a great way to get them invested in making this time work. Little Mandy is far more likely to look forward to making those cookies if she gets to use the sprinkles and snowflake shapes she picked out herself!

Similarly, getting a new angel for the tree is not about competing with the one that has been in your former spouse’s family for generations, so just pick something else. Make it something different, fun, whimsical, and (the younger the child) sparkly!

Put every kind of thought you have about “taste” and “design” straight out of your mind and focus on what will merely make your children smile … or even giggle. When all else fails, laughter is what you are aiming for.

Adult Children…still children

Up until the time when they have families and children of their own, your adult children still share the same idealized memories of the holiday past that the little ones do. The only difference is they have had a long time to coat those recollections with the shiny, happy glaze of nostalgic goodness. They will rely on their parents to maintain those traditions.

Therefore, when divorce occurs, even though your “kids” have a car and mortgage payments, go on expensive vacations, and must find a place to house their pets, you will still have to deal with the emotional fallout.

They will be saddened when they think of all those great holidays of yore, sure that “nothing will ever be the same”. They may be resentful for how your divorce will affect them. If they take a selfish view of the situation as an adult, it may be time for a serious discussion. You have spent their entire lives shielding them from pain and uncomfortable situations, but it is time for them to realize that you must also take care of yourself. Sometimes that means making hard decisions that affect the whole family.

After the serious discussion, the final answer is the same as it was with the younger kids. It is time to make new traditions, however with adult kids, these traditions can be more adult in nature as well. Take a trip. Go on vacation. Get away for a few days and let that be the new tradition.

Making new traditions can be an exciting and necessary step to enjoying the holidays in the present. Make new memories to enjoy in the future. Turn this obstacle into an opportunity to start fresh. Start something new and when the holidays come around again, you will be excited for all of the new traditions you have created.


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