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Divorced parents should share holidays, stay positive
By Karen Templeton
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – The pressures of the holiday season can be challenging for anyone, but for divorced parents and their children, this time of year can be particularly stressful.
“Divorce is tough on the whole family, and issues that it causes can get amplified during the holidays,” said Cassandra Palmer, a professional counselor working in Starkville. “Parents generally do not want to miss any time with their children, and the children can pick up on negative feelings the parents are experiencing.”
Planning ahead and putting the children’s needs first are two key elements to making the holidays enjoyable for children of divorced parents.
“It is essential to plan where the kids will celebrate and when,” said Carla Stanford, Mississippi State University Extension child and family development area agent in Pontotoc County. “Waiting until the last minute will only bring on more stress.”
Stanford suggested that parents put aside their differences and develop a holiday schedule, giving the children plenty of time with both sides of the family.
Arguments may arise about who gets the children for what holidays, but parents need to focus on what is truly important, Stanford said.
“It isn’t about the actual date of the holiday; it is about the memories parents can help their children build and the happiness they connect to those memories,” Stanford said. “Parents who do not have their children on Dec. 25 should not diminish the importance of the holiday for themselves or for their kids.”
Divorced parents can help make the holidays special for their children by developing new traditions and focusing on the meaning of the holiday being celebrated.
“Each parent or set of parents can get creative and start a new tradition that they and their children look forward to each year,” Palmer said. “Plan to be flexible and keep the focus on what the kids want. Parents need to stay positive for their children’s sakes.”
Stanford also advised parents to focus on the important elements of the holidays.
“Children of divorced parents are often overindulged with gifts as parents try to compensate for what they feel their children are missing,” she said. “Don’t depend on gift-giving to make the season special for children. Time together is the best gift of all.”
Parents can keep their outlooks positive by not speaking negatively of one another.
“Divorced parents should never put down their ex-spouses in front of their children,” Stanford said. “Remember that it is the children’s right to love both parents without feeling badly about it.”
Palmer said children learn by example, and parents can set the emotional tone for the holiday season.
“Parents need to find some peace in the situation and encourage their children to do the same,” she said. “Generally, if the parents are okay with the arrangement, the children will be as well.”
Children’s needs are not the only ones that must be met during the busy holiday months. Parents should also take care of themselves.
“The holidays are tough and can leave us feeling stressed and tired. It is important for parents to take time to de-stress and take advantage of the time they don’t have their children with them,” Palmer said. “For example, if the children are with their father for Christmas, then the mother should plan to do something nice for herself like go to lunch with friends or use the downtime to rejuvenate.”
Contact: Dr. Carla Stanford, (662) 325-3462