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12-01 Dealing with divorce during the holidays

Posted in Mental Health

Dealing with divorce during the holidays

The holidays are traditionally known to be a time to spend with family. However, if a family is in the midst of a divorce, then this is also often a transitional time for both parents and children alike. If this is the first holiday season following such a spousal decision to separate and divorce, then providing an appropriate atmosphere for the children will be a necessity. Parents will want to consider how to properly explain and guide their children at this time, while considering what is suitable for their age. For instance, easing a teenager through this period will naturally be a different experience than it will be for a young child.

Considerations for teens

To help make this holiday season less overwhelming for a teen, you should first ensure that there is a structured holiday plan in place, with no room for surprises. In fact, the sooner before the holidays the plans are decided, the better.

Parents should first consider what is most fitting for their circumstances. Will the teen be spending the holidays with one parent and then alternating to spend them with the other parent the following year? Or will he or she be able to spend time with both by dividing the time amongst either parent equally each year? A possibility is splitting time between each parent on the day before the holiday and then the day of. This will help the teen to feel that they are having the opportunity to spend quality time with both parents.

If parents decide that they will be alternating the holidays annually, then it will still be important for the teen to place a phone call to the parent that they will be meeting with next year. This will help to ensure that there are no hard feelings.

Make a unified plan for all children in the family

If your family has more than one child, then you should keep plans equivalent for all of them so that there is no discomfort. Siblings will naturally be turning to each other at this time for support as they adjust to their new circumstances. In this case, remember to decide how gifts will be divided between both parents and what spending limits will be. This will guarantee that children will receive the customary amount of gifts that has been the expectation in the past, helping to provide a sense of familiarity at this time.

Preserve old traditions and make new ones

This upcoming holiday season will be different from previous years, as the family begins to adjust to what the divorce means. However, this does not mean that certain traditions unrelated to the divorce have to change. In fact, preserving traditions when possible may help to provide a sense of comfort at this time. This may naturally include cooking traditional family favorites for the season. Perhaps you may choose to continue the tradition of helping parents with holiday decorating. Of course, playing the family’s favorite holiday music may also help to lift the spirits and provide a sense of continuity for your son or daughter.

Be a good role model

Parents are also able to help ease this process by being on their best behavior around each other during the holidays. This will help your teen to realize that although their parents are no longer married, they are both still capable of being civil to each other. This will help to set a good example for how adults learn to compromise in such a situation.

However, if you do notice that your teen is showing signs of depression or other adverse emotions stemming from the divorce, be sure they receive the support they need. Individual treatment and family therapy may prove valuable at this time.

It goes without saying that with time, your teen will gradually become more used to the adjustments in the family holiday routine. This may prove to be a significant learning experience, allowing them to accept how such a transition will bring change in certain ways, but not others.

For this reason, although some traditions may be preserved, new traditions will likely develop as well, and this is healthy. Each parent may discuss with their teen what holiday activities they have enjoyed most together in the past, as well as any new ideas they would like to incorporate. This especially makes sense if your teen will be spending each alternating holiday season with each parent, as this allows for more individual bonding. By putting personal matters relating to your spouse aside, you can help to preserve the holiday spirit for both yourself and your children at this time.

Written by Ryan McMaster, Sovereign Health Group writer

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