divorce-christmas

Children Of Divorce And The Holidays: Little People At The Big People’s Table

Parenting //

Xander sad

When I was growing up we would go to my grandmother’s for different holiday events. I remember at Christmas when the entire family including all our cousins would come together there were always two eating areas. One was in the kitchen at the kitchen table and that is where all the kids or as my grandfather would say, “the little people”, would eat. At the nice dining room table with all the food is where the big people sat.

We carried on that tradition when I grew up and my siblings and I had children. There was always the kid’s table and the adult’s table at my mother’s house. As the kids grew and got tall they were still called the little people and still sat at the little people’s table. As the kids got older there was always a lot of joking and laughter about who was old enough to sit at the big people’s table.

As we are approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas I want to challenge all of you to represent the little people at the big people’s table. What do I mean by that? I mean that many “little people” of divorce are going to be terribly stressed out as we approach the holidays. They are going to need a big people advocate.

Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are not exciting or happy days for some children of divorce. Right after Halloween they start thinking about where they will spend what day. They also hear their parents talking and maybe even arguing about when each one will have the children on what day.

Routines get changed and messed up and this causes undue stress on the kids. Routines create a sense of security for many children. They count on a particular thing happening at certain times. The kids of divorce may have gotten use to the every other weekend routine or the every other week routine and along comes the holidays and everything changes. All of a sudden the child comes upon this day called Thanksgiving. On that day the child has to celebrate with each parent and it’s not even a weekend day.

Thanksgiving Day schedule

Let’s take this day called “Thanksgiving” and look in on a child of divorce and their typical Thanksgiving Day schedule.

  • The child wakes up at moms on Thanksgiving Day. It is her week and the child expects to stay at moms until Friday night when the switching hour comes and they will go over to dads.
  • On this one particular Thursday morning Mom whisks the child up and takes the child to her mother’s house where all the cousins begin arriving. Everyone is excited about the big meal.
  • After the meal all the cousins get involved in games and playing together.
  • All of a sudden in the middle of playing with the cousins the kid gets packed up and taken to dad’s home.
  • Dad takes the child to his mom’s house where the child has to re-enter another scene with cousins but these cousins have already been together all morning.
  • The child has to navigate into the structure of this scenario, which is not easy for some children of divorce. The may hold back embarrassed that they don’t know what is going on.
  • The child eats another Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Just about the time the child begins to feel comfortable and accepted – whoops they are whisked off to another house. This is the house of the dad’s girlfriend’s parents.

It is not unusual for some of these kids to eat three or even four large meal on this day called Thanksgiving. It becomes a not so fun day for the child.

What can you do?
Encourage single parents to start now preparing for the holidays.

  • Help the parent keep stress to a minimum.
  • Don’t require single parents to host or volunteer for different events. If they do volunteer remember to provide childcare for little ones. Keep in mind they have no one to leave the children with at home.
  • Text scriptures that provide hope, encouragement and calmness to the single parents.
  • If your church has a Facebook page, include scriptures that bring stillness and quietness to this hectic season.
  • Hand out calendars for November and December with all of the church wide events listed on the calendars.Include any special instruction such as, “bring cookies for the choir event”. Give them permission to not bring anything or to bring store bought cookies and don’t guilt them into thinking they must bake cookies at home.
  • Encourage the single parent to plan ahead for parties and events and add them to the calendar you have provided.
  • Encourage the child to put the days at each parent’s house on the calendar also. You could even add a note to the calendar that says something like, “Be sure to write on each day which parent you will be with.” You might even provide a special Christmas pen or pencil for the child to record these days.
  • Set up special days for the single parent and children.One church has a Christmas Creation Saturday. On that day from 9:00 – 3:00 single parents can drop off their children at the family life center. The children spend the day making Christmas decorations; baking cookies; making Christmas presents and cards for both parents.The parents can Christmas shop or go home and take a long deserved nap.
  • Caution Sunday school and Bible schoolteachers to always have enough supplies on hand for any child that wants to make two projects – one for each parent.
  • Encourage freshly divorced single parents to find a Surviving The Holidays near you. Your church might provide a nursery or childcare for parents attending a Surviving the Holidays at a church near you.
  • Make a conscious effort to invite children in single parent homes to your Christmas events.You may think because you put a note in the bulletin that everyone knows they are invited. But for children who come to church without a parent, they don’t know.

Won’t you be a big people and help the little people this holiday season?

Please share what your church is doing to help children living in single parent homes this holiday season.

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About the Author

Linda has been a children’s ministry director, developed DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids, dc4k.org), operated a therapeutic child care, and has extensive experience at successfully accommodating challenging behaviors. She currently serves as the DC4K Ambassador and Professional blogger at http://blog.dc4k.org.