A Guest Post by Rachel T. Rucker, M.A., NCC, LPC
The holidays spent with family can be a stressful time under the best of circumstances, but when a family is in the process of a divorce the stress can become almost unbearable. Children of divorce in particular may have elevated stress levels during this time of year due to the changing environment that often accompanies divorce. They may wonder if Christmas will be the same, or if mom and dad will open presents with them together or separately. The best way to make Christmas as stress free as possible for children experiencing divorce is to allow your child to spend time with as many extended family members as possible on both sides of their family, separate your negative feelings about your ex from your feelings towards his or her family, and encourage your child to call or send thank you notes when gifts are received from their extended family on both sides.
Keeping a routine during the holidays may also help comfort children in the middle of a divorce. There is a lot of rushing around from house to house and event to event during this time of year. Routine can help parents keep some things consistent and this may help soothe anger and anxiety over being separated from one parent or the other during the holidays. Scheduling meals at normal times, keeping with after-hours events such as soccer, dance or music lessons can help ease anxiety and uncertainty for children. If a parent cannot keep a normal routine during the holidays then this should be explained to the child in concrete terms that are easy to understand. It is best to reassure them that their normal routine will return once the holidays are over.
Rachel T. Rucker Counseling Services, L.L.C.
Rachel T. Rucker, M.A., NCC, LPC
700 Papworth, Suite 202
Metairie, Louisiana 70005
2. Boyan, Susan Blyth, & Termini, Ann Marie. (1997). Cooperative Parenting and Divorce. Atlanta, Georgia: Active Parenting Publishers.