Ways Divorced Parents Can Help Children Cope with Emotions this Thanksgiving (and Holiday Season)

Coping with emotions during the holidays in the aftermath of a divorce can be difficult, and it’s only more difficult when there are children involved. Children can have an especially trying time during the holidays post-divorce, as they now have two households to deal with, two holiday celebrations, two sides of the family to visit, and two schedules to fit into. There may even be new relationships and blended family dynamics that children of divorce are dealing with for the first time during this season. The good news is that time is the ultimate healer of all wounds, and each year it will get a bit easier. In the meantime, here are some ways divorced parents can help their children cope with emotions during this Thanksgiving, post-divorce.

Create New Traditions and Celebrations with the Kids

While Thanksgiving is typically full of tradition, these rituals can trigger emotions surrounding one’s divorce in powerful ways. Engaging in traditions using holiday decorations once owned with one’s ex, or participating in events once attended with an ex can stir up a variety of emotions for both parents and children. One way to help alleviate some of the emotions (and pain) is by implementing new traditions and celebrations with the children this Thanksgiving. This can make the holiday extra fun if the children are given a voice, and allowed to participate in planning these new traditions and celebrations. It will also take the focus off the parent who isn’t present, as there won’t be any ghosts lingering—only the space to form new memories in this new chapter of life.

Keep the Peace

One of the best things parents can do to help children cope with emotions surrounding a family focused holiday, like Thanksgiving, after a divorce is to keep things peaceful with each other. Regardless of what is going on with a divorce, custody arrangements, or the stress involved with planning an upcoming holiday schedule, it’s important to play “nice”, and keep things peaceful. This will allow the children to feel a greater level of safety, security, and support when both parents are getting along. This will also prevent new emotions from rising to the surface surrounding any discourse between parents that could upset the children. It may also help the kids to adjust to the divorce when parents are able to stay peaceful for their sake.

Be Flexible and Keep It Simple

No matter how much planning goes into an event or holiday like Thanksgiving, there are bound to be unexpected things that come up and throw everyone for a loop. That’s why it’s always best to stay flexible, and this mentality can help when deciding on how to work out the holiday schedule as well. In addition to staying flexible, which will only help relieve stress for the kids, it’s also helpful to keep plans simple.

Communicate and Spread Love

Giving children the opportunity to share their feelings and thoughts surrounding Thanksgiving, and all of the holidays, can go a long way in helping them cope with emotions. It may be a good idea to have a family therapy session or therapeutic interventions with the kids. If therapy isn’t an option, or a preferred choice, some quality time with the children over a coloring book and some hot chocolate, or while playing a game, or engaging a fun activity (preferably not in public so they can feel comfortable expressing their emotions) will suffice. Parents and therapists can use this time to start a conversation surrounding the holidays, and by encouraging children to share how they feel about celebrating Thanksgiving, or other holidays in a new way- including, how they want to celebrate this year, what they hope to achieve or receive, what they’d like to do for others this year (focusing on others is a great way to help manage emotions), what they’d like to give to whom, etc. Placing children first on one’s priority list this time of year is so healing for them, and for parents. This will help families to really spread the love, and to nurture warm feelings and positive memories for years to come.

Practice Self-Care

In order for parents to be at their best for their kids this holiday season, it’s essential to practice self-care. This means making the time for oneself essential. It also means getting enough sleep and exercise, eating a healthy diet, resisting any urges to self-medicate, and taking the time for rest, relaxation, and self-nurturing.

The holidays can be difficult, but they can also be wonderful times of warmth and love. It’s important to be kind to oneself this year—not trying to do too much, or compete with one’s ex with parenting duties or presents for the kids, etc. It’s not a competition, rather a phase in life that’s difficult for all involved. Keeping the children at the top of one’s priorities, and remembering that each holiday will get easier each year is important in helping the kids and parents alike get through the holidays in the healthiest way possible.





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