Peaceful Divorce

Ten Tips for Separated and Divorced Families for the Holidays

The following list is an excerpt from the book Kids First: What Kids Want Grown-ups to Know about Divorce and Separation, created by the children who attend divorce support groups at the Kids First Center in Portland, Maine and by Peg Libby, Executive Director:

1. Plan, plan, plan
Planning and predictability help kids cope, especially with events like
holidays that are often ripe with emotion and expectations.

2. Begin early

Don’t leave the complicated scheduling logistics until the holiday is close at
hand – take it seriously and make decisions early (when parents begin writing
out their separation plans is a good place to start).

3. Be specific
Though future events can never be foreseen entirely, kids want to know what to
expect year after year at holiday time. Specific and detailed holiday plans
will provide kids with the security of knowing they have a plan they can count

4. Include the kids
Based upon the ages of the kids, parents are wise to include kids in
discussions of new holiday traditions, while making it clear that the final
decision will be up to the parents.

5. Be open and flexiblecolor:black"">
Though parents are urged to specify a very detailed schedule for holiday
events, it is also unrealistic to block out the possibility of changes.
However, the same rules of planning, specificity, predictability and inclusion
of kids apply.

6. Give kids permission to discuss their experiences at the other home
Parents respect their kids’ need for privacy by not asking probing questions
about the other parent’s home. However, kids may want to discuss their holiday
experiences and they will feel comfortable if they are free to do so.

7. Create new traditions
It is OK, even important, to acknowledge that “something has changed this year”
as families go through the first holidays following separations. Each parent
can play a role to help create a new, personalized tradition that honors the
old traditions.

8. Introduce no surprises

Introduction of surprises or emotionally charged information, such as new
partners, or moving, is best delayed until a quieter time. When parents keep in
mind the child’s point of view during holidays, they can avoid bad perceptions
of otherwise good news.

9. Don’t discuss issues
Refrain from the temptation to use holiday drop-off and pick-up times to review
past problems and areas of tension. Parents can easily project their own
feelings onto their child.

10. Give yourself a break
It should be expected that difficult feelings and behaviors will arise around
holidays and special events. Unfortunately, parents do not have a guidebook
that tells them what to do for every such event. There is only a right solution
for a specific family and specific kids. Informed, caring parents work together
to figure out what works to put kids first.

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