While the effects of separation and divorce can be felt for a long time, when the well-being of the children is top of mind, it is possible, with the right attitude and tool kit, to handle Christmas and other special family times well.
If you are currently going through a separation or are preparing for another Blended Family Christmas, the following suggestions may help. Remember … the greatest gift you can give your children is the freedom to be themselves and to know that (regardless of what you think, feel or ‘know’ about your former partner) it really is ok for them to love both their parents!
Tips for Enhancing the Experience of Christmas
- Plan ahead so that you have the support you need. If you suspect it’s going to be a difficult time, organise to spend time afterwards with trusted friend/s or family.
- If possible, organise a time where you bring together the original family unit for a BBQ, picnic or some other outing that allows you to be present with your children and enjoy spending time together again as a family. Putting aside your differences to focus on the children’s happiness will no doubt be something you will all look back upon with a sense of pride!
- Have realistic expectations of yourself and others and make room for the feelings that may surface at this time. Show your children it’s ok to have feelings and to safely express them rather than keeping them locked inside. This may well prevent all manner of future harm!
- Remember you do not have to buy or earn your children’s love; that’s a given, even when their behaviour belies it! What you may have to demonstrate (and ask of your extended family) is that you respect their need to develop their own relationship with both their parents and to be shielded from the details of your relationship breakdown. As they grow into adults themselves they will be able to form their own opinions and perhaps also challenge some of the misperceptions they may have formed along the way.
- Maintain your normal ‘Rules’, ‘Agreements’ or discipline with your children – overcompensating by being lax with your boundaries or giving them too much material ‘stuff’ is counter-productive – children need to know that you are willing to do the ‘tough stuff’ that love requires and that you are still the parent even if everything else has changed!
- Where possible, ensure your children have time with cousins and extended family on both sides as well as family friends over the holiday season.
- Christmas and Birthdays are also great times to reinforce that even though you’re no longer a couple, you are still their parents by giving a gift/s that come from both of you. This can help to avoid competition – and dare I say manipulation – as well as maintain the child’s respect for their parents as equals.
- Remember to acknowledge the role of step-parents – sometimes their contribution and the positive things their extended family bring to your lives can be taken for granted.
Offering Separation Counselling, Divorce Coaching and Family Constellations, and trained in Collaborative Practice, equips me with many tools to assist you and your loved ones through this time. See more information on Separation & Divorce or contact me for a free 20-minute chat.
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Thanks for sharing!