How can you help your teen cope with the holidays after divorce?

Dealing with holidays after a divorce can be a real trial for kids and parents alike. These were probably times when you were used to doing things as a family, and you're not the same family anymore. Some parents try to maintain the same holiday traditions, especially for the sake of young children, but it may be artificial and stilted, and teens are not likely to play along. It's best if you can create new traditions and involve your teen in deciding how you can celebrate together.

Decide in advance which parent the child will be with during particular holiday. While you may ask your teen for his preferences, be sure that he doesn't feel he has to choose between his parents. If you won't be able to see your child during the holidays, let him know that it's not because you don't care about him. When you're not spending a particular holiday with your child, be sure to find time to talk to him. Let your teen know that even though you miss him, you'll be having a good holiday -- many teens worry about their divorced parents and may develop guilt feelings about leaving them alone.

Don't turn holidays into a competition between you and your ex as to who will give the best or most expensive presents, or arrange the best parties. If possible, coordinate gift-giving with your former spouse, maybe even sharing expenses for big ticket items.

Don't deny or ignore the mixed feelings your teen may have around the holidays. It's quite natural that he will be nostalgic about past family holidays, sad about not being with the other parent, or angry about having to divide his time between parents. Acknowledge the emotional difficulty of the season but don't let it spoil the festive part of the holiday.




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