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Divorce And The Holidays: It's Nothing To Sing About

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By Judy Berkowitz, Executive Director, Kids In The Middle

Tammy Wynette sang about it. Gossip magazines revel in it. Even dating sites capitalize on it. Yet the family unit is the one that suffers the most from it. The "D" word: Divorce.

While divorce itself is devastating, the holidays make the pain even more pronounced...whether it's a freshly inked separation or a long ago occurrence. The plain fact is that the holiday season can be a cruel reminder to parents and children of what once was.

Yet divorce doesn't have to be a totally negative situation. New traditions can be formed. Change can be embraced. And children can thrive.

My work at Kids In The Middle (KITM) reminds me how important it is for parents to prepare themselves and their children for this time of year. KITM Clinical Programs Director, Gayle Young, LCSW, agrees that the holidays can be "brutal, especially for children of divorce. What once were fun family get-togethers are now separate celebrations."

Here are a few suggestions from KITMs' experts to make the holidays a happier time.

Fresh Start

Create homemade decorations. Cook new foods. Volunteer for the less fortunate. Make your holiday a special time that is different from any you have ever experienced in the past.

All In The Family

Let your family plan your "new" holiday in advance so the kids don't get any unwanted surprises. Include your children so they take ownership in how the time will be spent.

Stress-Free Zone

Your children's enjoyment is a priority. Don't pry, question or interfere with the co-parents' plans. Your celebration should be about the kids and their happiness.

Night And Day

The eve of a holiday at one parent's home can be just as important as the actual day with the other parent. Remember it is just a day. You can still make the time special when you are together. (Plus children often cite the double-your-gift-giving fun as a positive aspect of divorce.)

Safety In Numbers

Holidays can be lonely without your children, so stay busy and surround yourself with friends and family. Change up your scenery by traveling, or do something that you've wanted to but never had the chance before (a movie or wintertime hike can be refreshing.)

Separate But Equal

Communicate with the co-parent (if possible) and divide the child's wish list. Don't try to one-up the other parent because your child is the one who suffers from this competition.

Try singing a different tune during this holiday season. All you need is a dash of creativity and a smidge of patience to make it a memorable time for you and yours.

Kids In The Middle (KITM) was created in 1977 to help families transition to a new way of life before, during and after separation and divorce in order to create healthier futures for children and families. The agency combines four essential elements to achieve the most productive results: age-appropriate counseling strategies for children, effective co-parenting education and counseling for parents, expert family therapy, and unwavering confidential support for all family members involved. KITM is a proud member of the United Way of Greater St. Louis. For more information, call (314) 909-9922 or visit their website at Kids In The Middle.

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