Karen Bonnell, a Bellevue based Collaborative divorce and co-parenting coach, was recently featured on King 5’s New Day Northwest. Karen is a co-author with Kristin Little of the book The Co-Parent Handbook. In this video she talks about helping your children through the holidays after a parental breakup.
Karen recommends taking the long range view rather than focusing on immediate issues. Karen reminds us that while we may no longer be husband and wife, we will be parents together of these children for the rest of our lives. Therefore finding ways to continue effectively in those roles is very important to our children’s future happiness and well being.
A long range view takes into account both the impact of conflict on your children’s development as well as how their needs may change over time. One way to reduce conflict at holidays is to make sure sufficient planning has been done in advance, through the creation of your parenting plan or other discussions. This helps keep unresolved issues from cropping up at the last minute when they be more difficult to solve.
She suggests that it may be helpful, particularly in the first year or two after separation, to block out some time for both parents to be with the children together, preserving some sense of the familiar holiday traditions. This helps ease the transition to the future rather than going cold turkey.
She also suggested that when the children are going over to spend holiday time with the other parent, that you let them know you are doing well yourself, and that you hope they enjoy their time with the other parent. This helps them better enjoy their time with each parent without guilt or feeling caught in the middle.
Finally, if you notice that your children may at times be sad or feeling torn, acknowledge their feelings. We don’t have to be relentlessly cheerful — it is good to let the children know that sad feelings are normal, but that both parents will continue to be there for them.