What Age Has the Most Difficult Time with Divorce?
Children of all ages can struggle when their parents divorce. Even adult children may have difficulty coming to terms with a divorce. However, elementary school-age children (ages 6-12) are frequently cited as struggling the most in the immediate aftermath of a divorce. This may be because they are old enough to remember their life when their parents were still together but also young enough not to fully understand why a divorce was in the family’s best interest.
Regardless of how old your children are, if you have recently divorced, you are probably looking for ways to support them during their first holiday season post-divorce. Below we provide a few helpful tips for doing just that.
Take Time to Talk Through Things
One of the best ways to help your children through the holiday season is to manage their expectations for how things will go. This is especially important during the first holiday season after a divorce, when everyone is still adjusting to new schedules and routines. In the days leading up to a holiday, remind them of what they will be doing in the coming days and help them find things to look forward to.
If you and your co-parent do not have a clearly defined holiday schedule, make sure to devise a plan well in advance of the holiday, if possible. That way, your children have time to think about it, ask questions, and emotionally prepare.
Look for Ways to Maintain Old Traditions While Also Starting New Ones
Many families have common family traditions that they look forward to every year. From decorating cookies with their siblings to visiting extended family, some traditions may be disrupted because of the divorce. This can be very difficult on children, especially younger kids. In addition to making new memories and starting new traditions, parents can look for opportunities to continue past traditions where possible.
If some traditions are logistically difficult, such as attending a special event that falls on the other parent’s day or a family member is only in town for a limited period, co-parents may wish to consider adjusting their visitation schedule to accommodate it. For example, trading or splitting days so the children can participate in a special event they look forward to every year can go a long way in helping them feel more stabilized during the holiday season.
Don’t Overlook Opportunities to Coordinate with Each Other
Depending on your relationship with your co-parent, communication may be difficult. However, if you and your co-parent can get to a point where you can open a line of communication that enables you to coordinate your holiday plans, it can help the entire season go more smoothly. For example, share what gifts you plan on purchasing for your children, so there is no overlap, or consider going in together on larger items. Similarly, compare schedules and let each other know which holiday events you plan on taking your children to. This can help reduce conflict for yourselves and your children.
Consider Combining Holiday Events When Appropriate
Though it will not be possible for every family, if you and your co-parent are on amicable terms, you may find that combining a few holiday events helps relieve some of your children’s stress over the holiday season. For example, if you both like taking your children to see holiday light displays at your local zoo or to watch The Nutcracker, perhaps you and your co-parent can bring them together. This allows your children to experience a fun holiday activity with both of their parents.
Remember, most divorced families do not combine holidays, even if we see this portrayed as the ideal in movies and television. The goal of combining holidays should always be to reduce stress and anxiety, not create more. While it may be a good long-term goal, if you and your family are not ready or interested in this, do not try to force it.
Ask for Help If You Need It
At the Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC, we know how difficult divorce can be for the entire family. If you and your family are struggling to make your holiday visitation schedule work, or you are having issues with a co-parent not complying with a custody order, you are not alone. The holidays are already a stressful, busy time, and the first holiday season post-divorce is often the most difficult. Do not be afraid to reach out for help.