The holiday season can be a challenging time for divorced parents, especially the alone-times when your children are visiting their other parent.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed with grief or self-pity. Dwelling on what used to be, and on holiday memories of the past, takes us into a downward spiral that leads to more pain and sadness. Expressing these feelings can also make your children feel guilty about not being with you. That detracts from their own enjoyment of the holidays. And most times, it's really out of the children's control.
The best advice for parents alone over the winter holidays is to get creative and absorbed in activities that are personally fulfilling -- yet include the kids in non-intrusive ways.
Here are some suggestions:
• Create a Journal of holiday activities you can share with the kids when you next see them. This may include a travelogue of places you've visited, people you've met, movies you saw and activities you participated in. You can bring home a souvenir from each place as something to show and talk about with the kids when they visit such as a paper restaurant menu, post-cards, tee shirts, brochures, photos and videos.
• Send an email or text message of the day to the kids with a theme. Perhaps it's the Staying Warm Tip of the Day, Best TV Show Choice of the Day, Favorite Dessert of the Day, Best YouTube Video of the Day, Best Football Play of the Day, Favorite Song of the Day - whatever interests you both as a common bond -- just to stay in touch.
• Make plans to see the same movie as your kids on the same day and then schedule a call to discuss the movie together and share the experience in your own way.
• Step out of your self-focus. Join a toy distribution or holiday meal drive over the holidays to help needy children and families in your community so you feel valued while connecting and bringing joy to other children. Giving of yourself to those less fortunate is therapeutic in many healthy ways!
Be creative. Think out of the box in healthy ways and your children will appreciate you - and the holidays - without guilt, shame or sadness. You'll also find you have a life of your own to live and much to offer, even when the children are not around!
Remember, being a good parent is about helping our children master the challenges in life. To do that we need to master them ourselves. I always look for the "lesson or gift" in any challenging life experience. Learning to accept what is without resistance is healthy for everyone. Learning to embrace change, because it's inevitable, is a lesson in having a happier, more successful life.
The truth is, the only thing we can change in life is OURSELVES. We can change our attitudes, but not how other people behave. The earlier your children understand that, the more peaceful their lives will be. So use your life experiences and theirs as opportunities to grow our capacity for acceptance and compassion. The holiday season is the perfect time to start!
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce and Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! To get her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right!, free ezine, blog, coaching services and other valuable resources for parents facing, moving through or transitioning after divorce, visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com.