During this time of year, it is especially difficult when families, children, or recently widowed or divorced adults must face the holiday season. From September 16 through New Years is known as the “100 Days of Grief” which if often a time of dread, uncertainty, anticipated sadness, and concern. It would appear that everyone else would be having a wonderful time yet “this year will be the time of challenge for those who have faced a loss”. There are many articles which provide suggestions about surviving the holidays, yet some basic ideas may help you or someone in your life to get through these difficult days ahead.
Try not to talk about the Divorce
With regard to children, negative feelings and discussions about the situation need not be discussed with them. Talk about plans for the holidays-Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, focusing on the plans for how things will occur. Children and teens want to know about schedules, where and what they will be doing, which helps them to try to handle the serious changes in their lives.
Enjoy the Moments-Simply
Try to find some happiness in the holiday season by appreciating the moments. Times with either parent, or their extended family, needs to be one of finding some type of happiness. This can be accomplished by starting new traditions or rituals, finding new and special ways to enjoy the holidays, and to set a special schedule or time that each parent or grandparent/relative will remember. The days during a period of divorce and afterwards are truly difficult so finding a little joy each day can help.
Let Your Children or Teens Be A Part of Making Decisions
Involving children or teens in the decision making process is so important as they will let you or the other parent be aware of what they like and don’t like. Through their learning to express their thoughts and feelings then providing ideas about how they would like to celebrate these days ahead will be a positive experience for everyone as each person can create a special memory or time without creating angry feelings or very difficult situations. Keep the children involved as much as possible.
There is a certain magic and wonder about Christmas that no child should be robbed of. How you deal with your separation and divorce during the holiday will have a lot to do with how much magic and wonder your child experiences during the holiday season. Your actions will help keep the holiday spirit alive and your children happy.
The holidays will be more enjoyable if you emphasize the positive and let go of the negative. In other words, at Christmas time focus on decorations, celebrations, cookie baking and gift giving. If you are having a hard time with the fact that your family is no longer celebrating as a unit, together in one place, your children should be the last to know. Below are a few tips that will help you keep your children in high spirits during the holiday.
Don’t Bring Up Divorce:
I heard a friend say to her children, “this is our first Christmas as a broken family.” Ouch! She spent the holidays angry with her ex husband because her children were not able to enjoy their Christmas. There was no getting her to understand that her children were following her lead and would only enjoy Christmas if she set a positive example. Don’t make the same mistake my friend did by allowing your negative feelings to intrude upon the enjoyment your children experience during Christmas… or any other time for that matter.
Make The Most Of What Time You Have With Your Children:
Both parents love a child. Both want to be with that child as much as possible. Especially during the holiday season. If you are divorced, it isn’t possible to share every moment of the holiday with your child. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the most out of the time you do have with your child.
If you are the non-custodial parent, start building new traditions with your child in your home. Make the holiday about the time you are able to spend with your child. Not about the time you are not able to spend with your child. I know a father who never put up a tree, never took his children Christmas shopping and never took advantage of the extra days he could spend with his children during the holiday season. That father now wonders why his children are so distant. They are distant because he spent the time he had with them focused on anger he had toward their mother.
As a parent, you have a choice. Christmas can be a time of celebration shared with your children or it can be a time of navel gazing and pity parties. It is up to you what memories you build with your children. Building positive memories means building strong relationships, at Christmas and all year around.
Involve Your Children In Decision Making:
When parents divorce, children feel a lack of control. They have no voice in whether or not their family stays together. During Christmas and on other special occasions giving your children some control over how they spend their time lessens the stress of feeling out of control.
This can be especially important for older children. They may be scheduled to spend time with the non-custodial parent when they would rather be hanging out with friends. Give your child the option of bringing a friend along or planning activities with friends during their time with you. Take advantage of holiday visitation but allow your child to have an active role in planning any activities you will be doing together.
Love Your Child First:
When George Strait sang, “If it werent for my two kids, I’d hate my ex-wife,” he knew what he was singing about. You may not be able to manage it at other times but during the holidays, you need to love your children more than you hate your ex-spouse. The holidays aren’t about getting even with your ex, they are about finding joy and being together for the sake of your children. Be an adult and put the needs and desires of your children above your needs and desires and you and your children will have a Christmas that will be filled with seasonal spirit and love.
The holidays are centering points for families. What do you do with the holidays when dealing divorce or broken relationships make you wonder, “how can I celebrate anything?” How can you embrace Thanksgiving or sing about “Joy to the World” or light the candles on the menorah or tell the stories of Kwanza when your life is crumbling all around you?
As hard as it is, it’s in times of distress and heartache that you absolutely should celebrate the holidays. The fact is the holidays endure through everything. They are part of the solid ground that transcends what’s happening on the surface of our lives. They reassure us that there are some things that do not change and demand celebration no matter what. Holidays are about peace and sharing and gratitude and love. During tragedy, or divorce, or heartache we have to reach down and find those core things at a deeper level, a more meaningful level.
Here is a short list of tips to help you move from grief to celebration. The following suggestions will help you and your family move forward through the holidays. Your divorce is not the end of your life. It’s not the end of your family. It’s not the end of your happiness. It’s not the end of your holidays. Things will change, but you will definitely get back to joy, and you just might find that the true meaning of the holidays will shine brighter than ever.
- Be patient. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your family. You will grieve your losses, but remember what you are really celebrating. You can use this time to find new meaning, a deeper connection, and richer joys that you might have missed if this divorce had not happened. Accept the tears. Take one holiday at a time. The true meaning of the holidays will never disappear, and this experience, as hard as it is, can bring a fresh understanding of that truth.
- Simplify. A recent poll said 4 out of 5 people want the holidays to be simpler. A midlife divorce will make you look at your priorities. You usually have moved to a smaller place; you have less money; and you have less time if you have gone back to work. You have an opportunity to do what most people want to do. You have been forced to do something that may be a positive turning point in your family’s life. Take a look at your priorities and simplify.
- Be Flexible. Keep the traditions you want. Try some new things. Finding creative ways to share the season can enhance the real meaning of the holidays. Who says Thanksgiving has to be celebrated on the official Thanksgiving Day? If you don’t have the children on Christmas, have a tree-decorating party earlier in December. Make that a new tradition. An added benefit might be to make the week of Christmas less hectic.
- Focus on others. The holidays are really about sharing and being thankful. Spread the joy around. Expand your list of people to welcome into your celebrations. There are all kinds of people that YOU could encourage during the holidays. The holidays aren’t about you, anyway. They are about what God has done for all of us. They are about having a generous heart and a gracious spirit. Cultivate those characteristics and be grateful for every good thing you have.
- Remember, it’s not about stuff! Make a budget. Don’t overspend. Don’t try to buy love or loyalty. In a recent survey, many Americans are still paying off some part of holiday extravagance until November of the following year. Change that “more stuff” mind set. It will be good for you and good for your children, too. Give gifts of time and attention.
- Don’t postpone joy. There are many, many things to celebrate. It’s okay to cry when you need to, but the rest of the family (fair or not) will often take their cue from you. YOU spend some time figuring out real tangible, unchangeable things you can celebrate. Focus on those things. This is a sometimes-difficult transition, but a transition that can in the long run make your holidays more meaningful and memorable for everyone. Find every little joy you can this holiday season; be grateful for it and share it!
Happy, Joyful, Wonderful Holidays.
Don’t play ostrich and let the holidays ambush you. Divide tasks into essential and non-essential. Shop by catalog or when the stores are less crowded. Change the routine or location. Start a new tradition. And, consult with immediate family members so all voices are heard.
- LET YOUR NEEDS BE KNOWN
If you need help in preparation of a meal, ask. If you have some bittersweet times and need a shoulder to lean on, ask. If you want to talk about your loved one or the difficulty of this holiday, ask. Your family and friends are not mind-readers.
- DEVELOP ONE OR MORE COPING TECHNIQUES
There will be rough times and days. Decide on what your stress reducer will be – hot baths, long walks, deep breathing exercises, calling a friend, etc.
- WATCH YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH
Make sure you get extra rest and eat well. Overdoing (or dancing as fast as you can) is often a reaction to grief which can lead to total physical and mental exhaustion if carried to an extreme. You have enough to deal with; be kind to yourself and those that have to interact with you.
- RESOLVE TO USE YOUR LEARNING TO HELP SOMEONE ELSE
Although you may have been through the most difficult year of your life, you have also grown in compassion and understanding for others. By using that knowledge to help someone else, you give meaning to your loss.
Children and Grief-Loss of Loved Ones
During these special days of the year, statistics show that one in twenty children experience the death of a parent. Take time to listen to the videos, and if you know of someone who has lost a parent, grandparent, or other relative, such important information can be gained by these resources. Holidays for children are very special yet when there has been a true loss of someone very special in their lives, often parents and those close to children just don’t know exactly how to help children or teens.
For children, from Sesame Street, Grief and Loss Resource Video
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6392732n or the Website, When Families Grieve, http://www.sesameworkshop.org/grief/primetime_special