Divorce can be rough on children, and the holiday season, which is supposed to be full of joy for kids, can actually make things even rougher.
But on The Early Show, author D.K. Simoneau offered suggestions to help divorced parents make things better, so their children can have a happy holiday season.
She's the author of "We're Having a Tuesday," a children's book that addresses the difficulties of being passed from one parent to another, on a Tuesday, a holiday — or any day.
To see an excerpt from the book, click here.
What are some common emotions children may experience?
They often experience their own loneliness, or they worry that their parents are lonely. They may be worried and frustrated that they can't spend time with both parents. And, they sometimes feel left out, like they are missing one celebration, or they may be worried that their parents are missing out.
They ask, "Do I go to Mom's, or Dad's, or do I go to both?"
What are some things divorced parents can do to make the holidays easier for their children?
1. COMMUNICATE. You need to be open about how they feel about splitting time. Obviously, you need to communicate your schedules, for instance, if you'll be out of town. And, once you've established those schedules, you'll need to stick to them: If your ex says dinner is going to be served at 2, don't drop the kids off at 5.
But, be flexible. Set a time. If dinner is at 2, you need to allow that another celebration may run over. So, if your ex arrives at 2:15, instead of 2, don't have a brawl. You need to have some give and take; everyone's celebration is important.
How involved in the communication process should the kids be? Discuss the holidays ahead of time with your kids, and see what they want to do. The holidays should not about what you want, but rather, about what your kids want. Communicate with kids first before you approach yoiur former spouse; see what they want.
2. PUT YOUR KIDS FIRST. Remember: Your kids should come first, so you and your ex need to put your differences aside. If there's any way at all spend you can spend some time together, do it, even if it's just an hour for a meal, or opening presents together. Try to find a balance for family. Remember: It's not about you, it's about your kids.
Simoneau says her ex comes over every Christmas morning, before the kids wake up, so he's there to see the looks on their faces when they open their gifts. And, the night before, she bakes cinnamon rolls with her children, who are now 9 and 11. They all open the gifts and eat the rolls together. Then, her ex leaves, and they do their own thing. They've been doing that since their divorce.
What if it's not possible for you to spend time with your ex, for whatever reason? Sometimes it might not work, so you may need to let your kids call the other spouse. Let them do it openly, so they don't need to sneak off and worry that, "Mom is sad because I didn't call her." Or, maybe allow the other parent to pick up the kids for an hour to go for a walk.
3. AGREE ON GIFT-GIVING METHODS. Try to buy them together, so they come from Mom and Dad. Or, if you need to shop separately, perhaps help your kids buy a gift for your ex.
What about the idea of trying to buy your child's affections - if one parent tries to outspend the other? If you have a civil enough relationship to talk about gift giving, you should be able to set some spending thresholds, or buy them together.
4. ESTABLISH NEW TRADITIONS. These can be as simple as what you have for breakfast Christmas morning, driving around town to look at the holiday lights, learning a new activity, volunteering in a soup kitchen or going to see "The Nutcracker." Sometimes, people try to recreate the past, and kids know it's just not the same. That's not to say you can't incorporate some of your old traditions, but it's good to have some new ones, too.
Don't try to recreate all of it. Unless you're fortunate enough to all be together, your kids will know it's not the same, and that there's obviously someone missing, which can be sad.
The holidays can be a happy time for kids, and part of that comes from making new traditions. Don't dwell on what your missing; create new traditions.
Overall, Simoneau says she can't emphasize enough: Put your differences aside, and remember that your kids come first!
For much more on helpng kids through the holidays when you're divorced, click here.
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