Helping Teens through the Holidays After Divorce by Sharon Martin, LCSW
The holiday season is stressful for most people. If you and your children are adjusting to the holidays post-divorce, it can be even more stressful. Below I’ve provided some tips for helping teens through the holidays after divorce.
1. Realize it’s normal for your children to grieve the loss of their old life, including the way holidays were celebrated. From now on, the holidays will be different in numerous ways; not necessarily worse, just different. Try to be patient through the adjustment.
2. Involve your teens in maintaining some family traditions and starting new traditions. Together you can decide what things you want to try to keep the same and what things you’ll do differently (out of necessity or as a coping strategy). Talk to your teens about how things will be the same and how they will be different this year. I find that managing expectations is key to happiness.
3. Communicate your plans to your teens and ex well in advance. Regular schedules change with the holidays – school is out, you or your ex may be traveling, or extended family may be visiting. Discussing plans well in advance ensures there is no confusion or hurt feelings, and it shows respect for all involved. Also, try to stay flexible. Older teenagers often have their own plans and want to spend time with their friends as well.
4. Allow your children time to visit (in person or phone/Skype) with his/her other parent and extended family (even if you don’t like them).
5. Be on your best behavior. Your stress level may be high, so it’s extra important that you find healthy ways to cope and manage your emotions. Limit alcohol use. Be especially mindful of blaming, badmouthing or arguing with your ex. Children have an uncanny ability to overhear things. As a parent, you need to set the tone for your child.
6. Slow down and spend some quality time together. It’s easy to get caught up in lot of activities and commitments this time of year. Being available for your teens is always important. Teenagers still need a lot of parental support, even though they act like they don’t want it.
7. Remember that older teens and teens who no longer live at home are affected too. Sometimes these young people really struggle with how things have changed while they are away from home or with dreams of perfect holidays.
8. Consider counseling if you or your teen seem depressed, are using substances excessively, or have difficulty controlling your behavior.
This article is part of the series Parenting Teens.