By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
When the holiday season comes along, parents can be overwhelmed with stress. For divorcing or divorced parents, the stress is often compounded by emotional as well as physical challenges.
This especially impacts parents who are finding themselves alone when their children are away visiting their other parent. The intervals between seeing the children can be long and lonely. Sure, short-term periods when the kids are away may be a welcome respite for an overscheduled single parent. But during the holiday season it can become a particularly difficult time. Especially when friends and neighbors are busy with their own family gatherings.
At this time of year, divorced parents who are alone must be pro-active. It’s important to seek out activities that are personally fulfilling. And to reflect on ways you can address your individual needs. Reach out to friends. Explore activities that bring you fulfillment and joy on a personal level rather than a parental level.
Avoid guilting your children or falling into serious depression
For sure, this is not always easy, especially if you’re not used to looking within.
When overwhelmed by a sense of isolation, or feeling undervalued, parents often make poor decisions. Those decisions can often lead to depression and self-pity. Sometimes, in that state of mind, we send messages to our children that we later regret. It’s easy to bury our hurt in comments that can make our children feel guilty about not being with you. Keep in mind that those decisions are often not really within their control.
Of course, it’s only natural to tell your kids you miss them. However, we must be mindful of how that message is conveyed. Saying I wish you were home with me and not with your other parent may sound loving. However, it burdens your child unnecessarily with the need to protect you when you’re fragile and hurting. That’s an enormous burden to bear for any child.
That’s why it’s really helpful to have a support group of friends to turn to when these feelings arise. A counselor or divorce coach can also provide advice and new resources for creating alternative holiday traditions.
Create a healthy kid-connection when you’re apart
Here are some other suggestions that keep you connected to your children when you’re not together during the holidays or any day.
· Message “of the Day”: Send your kids a daily email or text with a theme. Make it simple or creative. Your Staying Warm Tip of the Day, Favorite Candy Bar of the Day, Sledding Tip of the Day, Favorite Frozen Yogurt Flavor of the Day. It’s a great way to stay in touch.
· Live video Streaming: Plan a live Face-time type of call so your children can share their adventures or show you the decorations and gifts around them in real-time!
· Synchronized Movies: Plan ahead to see the same movie as your kids on the same day. Then schedule a call to discuss the movie together and share the experience in your own way.
· Holiday Journal: Grab a notebook to keep memories and notes about your diverse holiday activities to later share with the kids. You can include memories from events you’ve attended, people you’ve visited, places you’ve explored, movies you saw and other activities you’ve participated in.
· Souvenir Box: Bring home a little something to show and talk about with the kids on their next visit. Simple things like paper restaurant menus, movie ticket stubs, tee shirts, colorful brochures, post-cards, hats and pens stimulate conversations and laughter.
· Volunteer Experiences: Join a holiday toy or food distribution drive to help needy children in your community. Visit an animal shelter. Find a way that you feel valued while interacting with and bringing joy to other children and families. Then tell your kids all about it!
Of course, all these ideas involve support from your child’s other parent. That means developing a cooperative relationship with your former spouse. Challenging? Perhaps, but it’s certainly worth the effort. Seek out support from a divorce coach or counselor for help addressing issues that may be difficult.
Collaborative co-parenting is a plus for both parents looking ahead – and a positive role model for your children. So, reach out for the support you need to negotiate a mutually respectful co-parenting relationship. Your children will thank you and better thrive after divorce.
Some final thoughts. Be creative. Think out of the box in healthy ways. Allow your children to appreciate you without guilt, sadness or shame. This is one of the greatest gifts any parent can give to their children. It’s the gift of enjoying their childhood without the burden of parental divorce issues weighing them down.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — With Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right as well as her coaching services and other valuable resources about divorce and co-parenting issues, visit https://www.childcentereddivorce.com.
All rights reserved. © Rosalind Sedacca