Growing up in a separated or divorced household is never easy, especially during the holiday season. Being able to keep the peace, maintain your sanity and grace while still creating healthy happy holiday memories can seem unreal. We know---
US Family Health Plan – a TRICARE prime health option – is all about keeping children and families happy during the holidays. Here are 5 tips to help maintain happiness and build great memories during the holidays while learning how to create a positive outcome out of what is often perceived as a negative situation.
- Put children first. Holidays for separated parents can be a lot on children especially if it’s right after the separation. There is usually a mix of emotions such as sadness, disappointment and anger. Make sure to listen to your kids’ needs and concerns, make them feel comfortable to be open about their mixed emotions. Also don’t forget that holidays are supposed to be a fun and a festive time for your children so no matter the circumstances put your kids first and avoid exposing your children to any tension or bad feelings against you and your estranged spouse.
- Maintain routines and rituals. Routines tend to give children a sense of security. For example if every Christmas eve a family watches movies and bakes cookies to leave for Santa or sons play football with their dad every thanksgiving morning, keep up with these rituals. When couples are newly divorced or separated during the holidays they tend to lose routines and allow things to go different ways, try to avoid that as much as you can. When you know things are going to change explain to your children that “things will be a little different this year”. During the holidays parents want to protect their children, so they try to make things different thinking it will make it better, but it may backfire. Children tend to feel secure with tradition, if you feel as if the kids are getting older or may not like the same routines and rituals sit them down and ask what they would like to keep or change.
- Put Differences to the side. This may sound unconventional but some divorced or separated parents spend the holidays together with their children. This will show the kids you are able to love each other and be mature adults even under these circumstances. Holidays are all about bringing your family together and spreading happiness. If there is the slightest chance for conflict between the parents or other family members, opt for a different holiday family arrangement.
- Plan for alternative plans or split the day among parents. It’s disappointing to both the child and parent when they have to be absent during a holiday due to separation or divorce. To help with this families should plan ahead by creating alternate plans which may include:
- Meeting up with extended family members or loved ones independent from the home.
- Going away- spend the holiday in a new exciting venue
- Attend events or plan a day filled with fun activities.
Pre-arranging these plans will make it easier to adjust during special occasions. Also make sure to stay in contact on the holiday by communicating with your family Via Skype or facetime. If you don’t want to separate your children from both their parents on the holidays, it would be great if parents equally split the hours of the day on each holiday. This allows parents to have time with their children individually and prepare kids for future holiday events. Splitting the children among both parents on the day may be stressful to kids, so make sure you try to be clear on what your children would prefer.
- Avoid making giving gifts a competition. Some parents, particularly newly separated parents tend to get into a gift giving war to become “best/most liked parent”. It isn’t rare for parents to give gifts they know their children want without consulting one another or knowing that one parent doesn’t approve of the gift. The best thing you can do for your children is avoid these types of competitions and conflict. They not only put a strain between the parents but can cause anxiety to the children. For example a child may want a pet and the other parent who the child lives with doesn’t approve and they can’t take the pet home it may cause the child to feel stress, disappointment and anxiety. If possible try to coordinate with the other parent so that the gifts are given from the parents jointly- despite the parents living apart.
Separated families can enjoy holidays the same way intact families’ can-- perhaps they’ll be even less drama. Everyone will be happier knowing what to expect and avoiding conflict. With great memories of happiness and fun, what better gift could a parent give?
Happy Holidays from US Family Health Plan a TRICARE Prime health option!