Celebrating holidays in a divorced family deviates from traditional family celebrations and as a result, children may experience difficult feelings during these family-oriented holidays. However, divorced holidays don’t have to be bad, just different.
Scheduling the holidays looks different for each divorced family. Each family has different needs and different relationships. Some families alternate years while others split up time around the holidays. Some families are even able to spend the holidays as a single family unit while being civil and friendly, according to Family Counselor Meri Jo Warner.
“This year I have Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with the kids, while my ex-wife has them Christmas afternoon. Smaller holidays, like Halloween, are just going to be celebrated with whoever has the kids that day,” recently-divorced Spanish teacher Andrew Rock said. “We switch turns for holidays like Thanksgiving each year. Overall, we try to take turns and be flexible and understanding with one another.”
Children may view the holidays as a brutal reminder of their parents’ divorce. Often, in younger children, the kids may be angry or sad and cry and pout as a result. However, others may see it as an opportunity to receive more presents or celebrate things twice, according to Warner.
“My kids have been really understanding of the situation. Although they sometimes say they wish we could celebrate holidays as one family, they ultimately know why things are the way they are,” Rock said. “My kids are adaptable and see the split holidays as an opportunity to see more people and family.”
All kids react differently to the holidays with divorced parents and that needs to be considered when scheduling for the holidays. The child’s needs should come first when possible, according to Warner.
“Parents need to be accepting and open to wherever the children are on the scale of reactions,” Warner said. “Give the kids permission to be upset by validating that divorce does make kids sad or angry. Then you can proceed with making the holidays as joyful as possible.”
Overall, the holidays are a time for love and showing your kids that you love them is the most important thing.
“Beyond the gifts and the divorce, the one most important thing is enjoying quality time with the kids- in the end, they don’t care how much you buy them or if you’re married- they care how much you love them,” Rock said.