No matter how much you assure your children that you and your ex-husband still love them, the first post-divorce Christmas will be hard on you and even more difficult for your kids. You can make every effort to give them the best Christmas ever, but they’ll likely still feel nostalgic for past Christmases when you were all together.
But you can keep things merry and magical for your children, even when you’re all still hurting from your recent divorce.
Here are some ideas that worked for me:
- Spend it together. Ideally, you and your ex can agree to spend Christmas Eve or Day together without arguing. If you and your ex get along, you will be giving your children the best Christmas present possible. Take the first step by inviting him to join you and the kids, for their sake. Of course this is easier in amicable divorces; but even if you and your ex don’t get along, keep it cordial and light for your children.
- Let them be kids. Your children may want to hang out with their friends. Maybe that’s their way of avoiding dealing with the post-divorce Christmas drama. Give your children the option of inviting some friends to dinner, or planning time with friends during their time with you. They need to go on with their lives too.
- Let them talk. Your children need to be able to express their concerns without fear of upsetting you or their dad. They have to know their opinion will be always welcomed no matter what they say. If they feel sad, irritated or depressed, they need to trust that you will not force Christmas joy upon them until they are ready to celebrate. Show your kids that you understand how they are feeling and that it is okay.
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- Give them a choice. When parents divorce, children often feel lost in their new reality. What about giving your children some control over how to spend the Christmas holidays? They can decide over little details like who’s sitting next to whom at the table, or help with the Christmas decorations and even help you cook. Make them feel in charge.
- Start anew. Create new Christmas traditions and encourage your ex to create his own. If you once only celebrated with close family, join new friends and extended family so the children can construct a new, happy Christmas without suffering through old traditions with one parent missing.
- Act normal. Ask your family and friends to act normal and be relaxed. No one needs to express pity for the kids or disdain for your ex. No matter how badly your friends and relatives may dislike the children’s father, he’s their dad and they love him. So tell everyone to zip it!
Whatever you do, put the kids first. Christmas holidays are about sharing with your family and friends. Try your hardest to put your children’s interests and needs above yours. You and their father are the adults, and you need to work together for your children’s sake. You may not love each other anymore, but you both love your kids. Let that mutual love for them guide your actions this Christmas. And remember, this first year may be a little tough on all of you, but it will get easier, I promise.