Contributed Article by Guest Author E. R. Reid
Surviving the Holidays After Divorce:
Keeping the Children First

Divorce. I have been there and done that, along with 19 million other
adults in this country. Although it has lost some of its stigma over the
years, divorce hasn't lost any of its heartache. As a divorced parent,
nothing is more heart breaking than watching the impact of divorce on your
children. They are usually the last to know and the most affected.


But even more painful is the first time you have to spend a holiday apart
from your children. As busy professionals, a holiday is one of the few times
we can break the routine and spend significant quality time with our loved
ones. Having to forfeit this time with my children was, for me, strange and
empty (sad is an understatement).




So, how can we minimize the pain and make the holidays most enjoyable for
our children and ourselves? As a corporate strategist, my success comes from
knowing how to see issues from my client's perspective. As a parent, I
needed to do the same thing for my children. Having observed both healthy
and unhealthy post-divorce families, my suggestions are derived from seeing
divorce from a child's point of view. The key thing to remember is that we
divorced our spouses but not our children. Efforts should be made to ensure
their happiness, which in turn will help ensure our own.




Divorce is traumatic enough for children without adding unnecessary
complexity to their schedule. Decide early on who will take the children on
which holiday, and avoid splitting the day (one of you has them in the
morning and one in the evening). Splitting the day is disruptive to
everyone's celebration because the anticipation of knowing you have to go
somewhere else makes it hard to enjoy the few hours you do have together.


It's highly recommended that if you have two or more children you don't
split them up. Whether they express it or not, children support and comfort
each other. Splitting them decreases their sense of security and connection.


A phone call in the morning to say hello and wish them a great day is a
must to help them feel okay about being away from you for that special day.
But don't lay guilt on the children by telling them how much you wish they
could be with you instead. Just wish them a great time and tell them you
look forward to seeing them when they return again.


Most importantly is that both parents send a consistent message to the
children that the holidays are still a special and great time of year even
though both parents won't be sharing it together.




Our children learn culture, character and esteem from us. They take cues
about what is acceptable from what we do, not necessarily from what we say.
The way you handle yourself and your relationship with your former spouse
will be the way your children learn to handle complex issues and
relationships in their own lives.


So, even after the holiday, move forward productively by bagging the
bitterness! Instead, focus on taking away helpful lessons from your marriage
experience. Then, use this new knowledge to become better. Despite the
reasons you divorced, your mental attitude is critical to not only
surviving, but thriving as a family. If you have the right mindset, then you
can feel confident that you and your children will be all right.




If you are not with your children this holiday, make sure you spend the
day with supportive family and/or friends. Avoid "the downers" as
I like to call them, which are friends who speak negatively to you about
your ex-spouse in order to arouse your anger. Spend time with those that
love you and want to help you move on by giving you new and better things to
talk about.


E. R. Reid is the author of STOP My Childhood From Drowning! 39 Lessons
From A Child Experiencing Divorce, and the president of Fruition Online, a
strategy consulting company that specializes in helping people through life
transitions. For more information visit WWW.FRUITIONONLINE.COM.


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