No matter how many times you reassure your children that they are safe and loved, divorce is a challenging transition, and they may struggle for years in unexpected ways. Although divorce may have been the best possible option for the health of everyone in your family, the long-term psychological and financial consequences can be extraordinarily difficult to navigate. The fact that you are reading this blog, however, shows that you want to help your children in any way you can, and they will remember and appreciate your efforts for years to come.
Luckily, quite a few organizations have researched what best helps children during and after a divorce. As the end of the year approaches, many split families are beginning to incorporate coping strategies into their holiday celebrations.
Mental health professionals from Bradley Hospital, for example, recommend the following 7 strategies for co-parents who want to help their kids cope with divorce during the holidays:
- Reduce the chaos of excessive traveling. Strengthening other family relationships may help you and your children cope with divorce, but attempting to visit as many people as possible during the holidays may only serve to add stress to the equation. Similarly, many co-parents decide to split Christmas day down the middle. Designating two separate days (e.g. Christmas eve and Christmas day) for kids to spend with each parent is an alternative to hectic scheduling and travel time that may negatively affect your child’s ability to thoroughly enjoy the holiday.
- Plan ahead. When kids know in advance what their holidays will look like, they have more time to accept and emotionally prepare for any big adjustments. Establishing a schedule in late November, for example, can allow children to develop the sense of stability, predictability, and control they need.
- When appropriate, allow older kids to participate in the planning. Every child is unique. Some very young children are more reasonable or logical than the average adolescent. Generally, however, older children benefit from having a say in certain decisions. If they would much rather travel multiple times so they can see both parents on a single holiday, for example, co-parents may want to adjust accordingly.
- Harness the stabilizing power of traditions. Psychologists have found that young children rely more heavily upon old traditions in the event of a significant and destabilizing change. If you and your co-parent can continue holiday traditions despite your separation, your children will greatly benefit. If old traditions are no longer possible, introducing new traditions can help your kids feel as though they know what to expect in the future.
- Use technology to bridge physical distance. When co-parents no longer live in close proximity, video-chatting tools like Skype or FaceTime can help kids cope with the distance. Some parents like to get creative by sending videos of themselves baking, running errands, or decorating. If one of your family’s old traditions involved watching a certain movie together, you may consider using one of these apps to sync online content so everyone can watch together, no matter where they are.
- Give kids the space to feel what they feel. Divorce causes a broad range of long-lasting emotions, especially over the holidays. While we may want to suspend anger or sadness for the sake of enjoying the season, accepting your children’s emotions as they are will help them grieve and, eventually, heal and move on.
- Take time for self-care. As parents, our first instinct is to make sacrifices for our children. If we fail to take care of ourselves, however, we won’t have anything left to give. Taking time for yourself will restore your energy, help you heal, and provide an example for your children so they learn how to cope with life’s biggest challenges.
While every child has unique needs, mental health professionals agree that the key to a child’s psychological wellbeing is a sense of security. No matter how good of a parent you are, divorce is destabilizing, and whatever you can do to help a child know what to expect will go a long way toward supporting their emotional growth.
Get in Touch with Our Firm for Additional Support
The emotional challenges of divorce are well-known. Seeking support from friends, family, and mental health professionals will help you develop the tools you and your children need to handle the stress of the separation. You may, however, be facing unexpected legal hurdles, and our team at the Law Office of Robert W. Kovacs, Jr. is ready to help.
Let us stand by your side during this challenging time. Schedule your initial consultation or give us a call at (508) 926-8833 today.