Surviving Divorce: Holidays Can Be Especially Challenging

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Surviving divorce can be tricky.

Relationship experts say divorce can be especially challenging around the holidays, a time when families are supposed to be happy and together.

The world is focused on peace and love, but what about couples trying to just get through it.

CBS2’s Sandra Mitchell has advice from an expert.

Above everything, says family therapist Fran Walfish, remember the kids.

“The likelihood is your child or children will spend Thanksgiving with one parent and Christmas or Chanukah with the other parent and your child wil handle it, if the parents can handle it,” says Walfish.

She says it’s important to be upfront with children about divorce about who with and where they will spend the holidays. Mark it down for them on a calendar.

“And do your best, parents, to stick to the plan,” Walfish says.

And even though you may be sad about the holiday or holiday arrangements, it’s important to stay positive when you talk to your kids.

“Don’t say, “You’re not going to be with mommy on Christmas, you’re going to be with daddy,'” she says.

The doctor recommends another approach.

“You’re going to wake up Christmas morning and open presents with daddy and mommy will pick you up after breakfast,'” she says.

She also has advice for newly separated parents.

“No. 1, it should not be up to your child with which parent they spend the holidays. It should be up to the mom and dad,” Walfish explains.

When it comes to your side of the family, set up boundaries. Ask your family not to pump your children with probing questions about your former spouse.

“The subject of the other parent is very delicate, gentle and vulnerable, raw and tender and it will be for years to come for these children,” she says.

If your child wants to buy your ex a gift, let them. Do it for the kid.

“I always advise them to buy something, even if it’s small. I don’t care of you go to the 99 Cents [Only] Store,” she says.

The doctor says it’s also OK to validate your own feelings of sadness during the rough time.

“Acknowledge it. ‘I feel sad because I’m not going to have my kids with me on Thanksgiving.’ Of course you do. You’re used to having the kids,” Walfish says.

Her advice for anyone going through divorce this time of year?

“Make sure you are engaged with other people and other families for the holidays. Don’t be alone,” she says.

Walfish also says it’s OK to allow your kids to call your ex before bedtime if they are missing mom or dad. But if you are also struggling with establishing bedtime rules, that could start a debate with your ex on the phone, and that’s something to avoid.

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