When a family has just gone through a divorce, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time of
year. While it is difficult for everybody, the children in particular may be struggling. The loss of
traditions and routines can fill them with grief. You may notice they withdraw, act out, or they
may seem sad and depressed.
It may be difficult witnessing your child struggle with these dark emotions, but they are
necessary for the whole process. On your part, there may be guilty feelings as a reaction to your
child’s. It’s a complicated situation-- there’s no right way to feel. However, as an adult in the
family it behooves you to act as a positive example on dealing with hard situations.
The Holidays After Divorce: Dos and Don’ts
First and foremost, you want to encourage open, honest communication between the entire
family. Making sure your child knows you are there to listen. They may have a lot to say, but if
they pick up that you don’t want to listen, it will create feelings of resentment and frustration. If
you want help with communication among family members, family therapy can provide
mediation and guidance for effective communication.
One mistake newly divorced parents make around the holidays is trying to pretend the situation
has not changed and go about the season as normal. While it may seem like a good idea, the
truth is it may get your child’s hopes up about the future of your marriage. Talk to your children
about why you are splitting time during the season and emphasize how it will be double the
If it seems like we are emphasizing talking with your child a little bit-- it’s only because we are.
It’s the only real way to get a sense of your child’s true feelings. It may surprise you to learn that
a lot of children feel guilt during the holiday season, especially if they are spending time with
one parent on an important day and not the other. For instance: if you all used to spend New
Year’s Eve together, but your child is spending it with your ex while you are alone, they may feel
bad about you being alone. Assure your child that you are going to be just fine enjoying the
holiday where you will be. Tell them what exactly you will be doing and assure them that as long
as they have a good time, you will be having a good time.