5 ways to make the holidays stress-free for tweens of divorce
By Alicia Robertson
Feeling anxious about how to get through the upcoming holiday season without too much drama? You’re not alone.
While the holidays can be an incredibly joyous time, they can also be extremely challenging for families who are navigating divorce—especially when you’re determined to maintain the holiday cheer for your tweens. With careful planning and consideration for everyone’s top priorities and feelings, you can still achieve a stress-free holiday for you and your tweens this year.
Make sure your legal agreement is inclusive of everyone’s needs
The most important starting point is with the legal agreement that you and your former partner draw up when working through your divorce. Don’t rush through this step!
Take your time to make sure that your final draft is truly inclusive of everyone’s needs, which will help ensure that everyone has a really positive holiday experience. Spend time discussing and determining everyone’s priorities: yours, your former partner’s, and your tweens’. Focus on the experiences that matter right now, but remember that over time, new family traditions may emerge and that the holiday season will look different at different ages and stages for your family.
Remember that this is a legal document, so you want to be as specific and clear as possible. As parents, it’s your job to enforce this agreement when necessary, especially if your tweens get upset about the plans you’ve set for the holidays. In this situation, the best thing you can do to support your tween is to listen and validate their feelings—using statements such as “thank you for sharing your feelings and desires. This is not easy and how you feel and what you want is entirely reasonable. Let’s figure out how we can work through this together”.
Care for your own emotions first
In order to support your tweens through the emotions they’re going through during this tough time, you have to first focus on your own emotional self-care and healing. Start by having an awareness of what new feelings are coming up for you, such as grief around the loss of family traditions, not seeing the extended family you love, etc. Try to stay out of the victim mindset and flip that script by reminding yourself that you’re not losing or missing anything. You’re safe, well, happy, free, and you can make positive choices for yourself!
You’ll be better equipped to meet your tweens’ needs once you’ve sorted through your own emotions – without accidentally projecting your own feelings on them.
Practice intentional listening
As parents of tweens, one of the best ways we can help our kids is to listen to their concerns, validate their feelings, and support them with coping strategies. In order to accomplish this, we must first take care of our own feelings—this allows us to properly remove ourselves from the situation and act as a parent rather than as a fellow victim going through this challenging time.
Tween and teen years are a time when kids are often questioning their own identities and figuring out who they are as a person, both within and outside of their families. On social media, they may be seeing perfect images of what the holidays look like for some of their peers, which could lead to even more painful feelings of loss and grief. Make sure your tween knows they can always talk to you about these feelings by being responsive and nurturing to them as they work through these feelings.
Focus on the holiday season, not specific dates on the calendar
This one might be hard for some people to swallow, but it’s a crucial message to send to your tweens: Christmas can still be Christmas, even when it’s not on December 25. (If you’re celebrating other holidays like Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, the same theory applies!)
You may be used to celebrating on the prescribed date, but now that your celebrations may be spread out among different households and families, your entire family must be willing to compromise. Whether you celebrate Christmas on December 23rd, 25th, or 27th, what matters most is that you’re spending time with the special people in your lives and creating beautiful new traditions together.
Know your rights within your divorce
We hope that it doesn’t come to this, but if your former partner isn’t respecting your legal agreement or your time with your children, it’s important to know your rights and what you’re entitled to by law.
Never settle for high conflict and complex situations, especially with tweens and teens. In spite of your best efforts, they will see and understand more than you realize, and you don’t want them to see you being bullied or treated unfairly. As parents of older children, it’s so important that we model positive relationships, even with people we may not always agree with.
Lastly, remember that as your tweens grow older and your family changes, your holiday season may change too. It’s always fun to try new traditions and celebrations from year to year, and see what works best for your family. As your family navigates this season of change, it is important to be open and flexible with your tweens.
About Alicia Robertson:
Alicia Robertson is the founder and CEO of Lemonade Life, a coaching business that helps people navigate overwhelming life changes such as divorce, loss, career pivots, midlife uncertainty and more. She helps her clients view their circumstances not as an ending; but as a catalyst for radical growth.
Alicia became inspired to start Lemonade Life after her own experience with overwhelming life change—when she heard the fateful words “I want a divorce“. Alicia’s life was forever changed at that moment but after overcoming the grief of the experience, she decided to see this uncoupling as an opportunity to restart her life. She has since made it her personal mission to crush the stigma of divorce.
Alicia is the author of the Amazon Bestselling book Make Lemonade: Thrive Through Divorce By Transforming Your Life and the creator of Unwife, a flagship program that teaches women to thrive through their divorce.
In just the past three years, Alicia has coached over 1,000 women and built a community of over 30,000 people. She’s a sought-after motivational speaker and thought leader who’s been featured on SiriusXM, Thrive Global and The Papaya Podcast. It’s Alicia’s mission to empower women to thrive through change and build their best life.