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Feature Article


Tips for surviving the holidays after divorce

Nina Chen, Ph.D., CFLE, Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Father and son playing togetherThe holidays can be stressful and challenging for parents and children after a divorce. The holidays may bring up old memories that can make family members feel hurt, sad, angry or disappointed.


Everyone needs to make adjustments to cope with the changing family dynamics. Whether children will adjust well or not depends on how well parents adjust to their new roles and new holiday visitation schedules. In order to make the most of the holiday season for the children and themselves, both parents need to plan ahead to avoid scheduling conflicts, arguments or misunderstandings.


Here are some suggestions to help establish lasting memories for your children and yourself:


  • Make detailed plans to avoid confusion so that both parents and children know exactly what to expect. Make sure children know where they will be spending the holiday. If changes need to be made, discuss with the other parent as early as possible.
  • Create holiday traditions with your children. If children are not with you for a holiday, find positive ways to enjoy the holiday for yourself.
  • Avoid using holidays to compete with the other parent. Focus on your children’s needs and set realistic expectations.
  • Teach your children the meaning of giving and sharing. Buying expensive gifts is not a way to get a child’s love. The gifts children need from parents are time, attention, unconditional love and emotional presence.
  • Communicate with the other parent openly. Work with him or her to decide who will take the children on which holiday. If you have more than two children, don’t split them up. Let them be together to help them feel secure and connected.
  • Be aware of your children’s feelings, and encourage them to express and talk about their feelings.
  • Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. You need to develop a good support system and put your past behind you to be able to have joyful and fulfilling holidays.


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Last Updated 12/13/2016