Divorced? 3 Things to Say to Your Children at The Holidays

divorced kids

As the winter holiday season approaches, it is common for young children to get excited about the prospect of writing a letter to “Santa”. A letter to Santa is a direct line to communicate their utmost desire whether it is in the request of a coveted toy or something much more personal such as their family getting back together. What about when your child asks for something impossible for Santa to bring?

“I wish my parents would get back together again.”

Christmas is a time to be spent with family, so it is no surprise that most children, no matter what their age, wish intensely for their parents to reunite. This desire is most intense when parents first make the decision to separate and this feeling can linger even after a parent remarries. The wish isn’t rational but children still fantasize.

Some children will go to great lengths in an attempt to get their parents back together. They may act like the perfect child at home and the model student at school in order to make their parents happy. Or, the opposite can be true. Children may get in trouble at school so their parents will have to get together to discuss their child’s behavior. However, it is not the child’s responsibility to reunite their parents.

It’s often painful for parents when they hear their child say, “I want Mommy and Daddy to get back together again”, knowing this is not going to happen, and especially during the holiday season, a season that is suppose to be family oriented. But, there are things parents can do to help their child accept the situation.

1.Make it clear to your children that you will not reunite.

  • Communicate that it is something they cannot change.
  • Never provide false hope of possibly reuniting with your former spouse.
  • Let your child know that Mom and Dad make those decisions, but not Santa.

2.Continually explain what is happening.

  • Let them know ahead of time what their schedule will be during the holiday season as well as other changes throughout the year.
  • Remind your children that you will always be their Mom and Dad even if not living together.

3.Reassure your child that it’s not their fault and it is nothing that they can change.

  • Emphasize that your child didn’t do anything to cause the divorce, it is Mom and Dad that don’t get along.
  • Inform your child that Mom and Dad will always love and protect them no matter what.

“I wish my parents would act like friends when they are around me.”
Children enjoy seeing their parents get along, especially during the joyous time of the holiday season. This is not an impossible wish. This wish does not require a resolution of all the marital issues or emotions associated with the separation. It doesn’t require the parents to become friends or trust each other. It does require respect and the awareness that it is about the child and not each other.

Show that you respect your child’s love for the other parent.

  • Show your child you admire their love for the other parent.
  • Interact in a positive and cordial fashion, especially when your children are present.

Ultimately, enjoy this time where your child believes in magic, and prepare yourself for explaining the impossible. Consistency in communication will allow your child to maneuver through this difficult time.

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About Ann Marie Termini

Ann Marie Termini, Ed.S., M.S., LPC is co-founder and director of the Cooperative Parenting Institute in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. She has worked with children and families since 1979. Ann Marie has co-authored several books including Cooperative Parenting and Divorce: 8-Week group program for separating parents, Cooperative Parenting and Divorce: A Parent Guide to Effective Co-Parenting, The Psychotherapist as Parent Coordinator in High Conflict Divorce: Strategies and Techniques and Crossroads. Respected in their field, Ann Marie has conducted numerous seminars on the international and national levels. She has trained parenting coordinators since 1997, and as a result, co-authored the first and only comprehensive model of parenting coordination.

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