Where did 2012 go? It's almost Thanksgiving, and holiday decorations, wrappings and sales are abound. With the holidays come great anxiety for separating families, especially those newly separated parents who are feeling worried, guilty and cash-strapped for their first holiday in two houses.
In my twelve years at Kids' Turn, I have written extensively on how to navigate the holidays. In my personal life as a single parent and a parent in a blended family, I have some experience with this challenge as well. So I've written ten tips for parents to consider around the holidays. Some of them may seem simple and easy but remember, when our emotions are on overdrive, it is the simple and practical activities that help keep us grounded.
1) Do everything in moderation, including alcohol, food, spending and new relationships. Holidays are a time when the media encourages us to overindulge in all aspects of our lives. The hangovers created by overdoing it will be regretted when 2013 begins.
2) Make adult decisions on how the holidays will be celebrated. Young children need not be asked, "Where do you want to be on Christmas day?" Leave those decisions for older youth when they have demonstrated real preferences.
3) Maintain some traditions while developing new ones. Unchanged holiday festivities are a great foundation on which to build new ones.
4) Remember that your children will mirror your reactions to the new experiences. The adults decided to make the changes and the children are along for the ride. If you are gloomy and down-hearted during the holidays, your children will pick up on that and it will affect them. If you feel sad or angry, find some private time to talk to a friend, a relative or a therapist to help you through the phase.
5) Do something for someone less fortunate. Adopt a family or a child off a "giving tree". Putting focus on helping others has genuine spiritual and mood-lifting benefits.
6) Encourage well-meaning grandparents and other relatives to cooperate with your holiday planning. You are the parent and you know what is best for your children. Remind the grandparents that this is a time for new traditions to begin and you want them to be part of any new activities free of guilt-ridden reminders of how things used to be.
7) Be very careful with spending fueled by feeling guilty. What your children want is your time and attention, especially after the new toys are broken. Do something together; go ice-skating or to a museum, attend a free concert, watch an old, silent comedy on television, help a neighbor, bake cookies, play a video game together or host a sleep over. Separating parents need to check the urge to outspend one another.
8) Remember that, like all life episodes, the holidays are temporary. If you are on overload from the music, the media and the food, tune out for awhile. Before you know it, January 1 will be here.
9) Carve out quiet time for youngsters of any age so they can be reflective (youth/teen) or just free of stimulation (younger children) . Very small children can be overly stimulated or excited by all the attention and activities, which now is now doubled in two households. Children who get worn out or overly tired are easily susceptible to cold and flu season. Again, as the adult, it is your job to set limits and not overdo.
10) Be good to yourself. If you are calm, stable and peaceful during an excitable time of year, your children will pick up on that too. Your well-being influences the well-being of your family.
Good luck everyone, and very best wishes as the holiday seasons approaches.