Dear Dr. Jann: This is the first year after our break-up and the kids, ages 8 and 10, are really upset. They are scheduled to be with their father for Thanksgiving. I retained the home, the home they have lived in all their lives. He is not making a big meal and barely has furniture. The kids love their dad, but don’t want to spend Thanksgiving at his home. What do I do?
Dr. Jann: For most, money is a big concern after a break-up and the person who moves may have to start over by purchasing furniture and the bare necessities. A huge feast does not fall under “bare necessities,” so dad may not see the importance of creating a holiday atmosphere in his new home. But what makes the holidays magical for kids is how their parents present them — and the kids probably need a diversion from all the changes they’ve faced with their parent’s break-up.
There are some simple, but inexpensive things dad can do that won’t require furniture or even a tree. Kids love crafts — both boys and girls — and doing things together reinforces the holiday tradition. Make construction paper rings in Thanksgiving colors. There are many crafts to do. It’s cheap and getting the kids involved in creating a loving atmosphere (after they have experienced their parents arguing and breaking up) is what starting over is all about. Do some soul-searching and create a new tradition that your kids will look forward to.
Mom might want to do some soul searching, as well. The holidays are about the kids, not your issues with dad. The bottom line, divorced parents must be proactive in creating a positive atmosphere of “home” after the break-up during the Holidays — and any other time. If kids feel like they are “just visiting,” they are inclined to balk at going back. So, dad, it may be out of your comfort zone, but put some thought into how you can create a holiday atmosphere in your new home this year. And, mom, for your kids’ sake, look for ways to help him.