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Parents arguing at Christmas

Divorce and the Holidays

For the past few weeks, we have been giving tips to help the holidays remain a time of happiness and cheer.  As a psychologist who works with many children and adolescents, I often hear about divorce.  Youths often discuss verbal sparring of parents and caregivers, which can become especially problematic on the holidays.  Or, I hear about the anxiety and fear of these fights occurring.

Being around someone who makes your blood boil is very difficult.  However, I would caution parents to think about their child’s memories of these events.  Also, think about what kind of behavior you are modeling for your child, as children are like sponges and often mimic their parents’ behaviors and communication styles as they get older.  Some tips to get you through this time:

  • Plan for triggers. Much like the advice given in my previous article, have a game plan so that you can remove yourself from a situation that may become heated.  Find a spot to calm down.  Have a buddy to sit next to at dinner.
  • Ignore negative behaviors. Responding to comments with more negative comments will only escalate conflict.  Instead, ignore negative comments and behaviors (unless they are unsafe, in this event, call the police) to de-escalate interactions.
  • Remember that the holidays are NOT about you. Encourage your child to interact and have fun with the other parent.  Encourage positive memories.
  • Coordinate early. Waiting until the last minute to plan and organize children’s holiday schedules may foster arguments.  Plan early and compromise.  Again, remember, the holiday is about your children being happy, not winning a competition. Create a structured, well-documented schedule to ensure both parents understand the game plan.  Reviewing this before the holiday will also ensure that children feel less anxiety and uncertainty about their plans.
  • Establish new traditions. Children may miss traditions from years past in which both parents were present or getting along.  Therefore, new traditions are important to create.  Also continue to maintain some old traditions as well, to create a sense of consistency.

Hopefully, some of these tips and suggestions can help you to have a more positive holiday season!  If not, please seek additional support from family members, friends, a pastor, or psychologists like myself and Dr. Bodden.  OnCourse Cayman would like to wish you a very happy, safe, positive holiday season!!

-Dr. Colleen Brown

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