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How to help your child through Christmas if you’re divorced

Christmas is set to be the ultimate family time – but what if your family doesn't fit the nuclear mould anymore?

Christmas can be a difficult time to navigate if you are a divorced parent with children. It’s important that your child doesn’t feel torn between two households on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Here’s how to keep the season festive as a divorced or separated parent.

Lead by example

This is the most difficult part, but it’s also the most important. “Children take their cue from us,” Susan says – so, if your child can see that you really wish they weren’t leaving you to spend time with your ex, they’ll inevitably pick up on the vibe. On the other hand, if you’re enthusiastic about their Christmas, they’ll share that excitement. It’s vital that your kids know they have a safe space where they can talk about absolutely everything (even the fact that they’d prefer to spend Christmas with you). That begins with keeping an open mind to anything they have to tell you about the holiday at their other home. Ask questions, show them that you’re happy they’re having a great time, and let them know that whatever they feel is ok.

Remember to have fun

Kids want to be where the fun is – plain and simple. If Christmas at yours is an all-out explosion of red and green while dad doesn’t even have a Christmas tree, it’s natural for them to feel that they’re missing out when they’re at his house. Obviously, people’s sense of occasion varies, but at least make sure that Santa Claus has paid a visit to both homes.

A balancing act

Many families opt to alternate Christmases but, observes Johannesburg coach Susan Gregor-Harlan, this might not be ideal – either for you or your kids. Experiment until you find the best way for your family to spend the season. For example, you might prefer to celebrate Christmas Eve while your ex hosts Christmas lunch.

Surround yourself with loved ones

Of course, a divided household may be difficult for your kids, but it’s not easy for you, either. Susan says that surrounding yourself with people (especially people who are sensitive to your situation) is a must. Use the time to fill your tank, doing the things you don’t usually have time for.  

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