Question Of The Week: Why Is The Interruption Of Routines And Traditions At Christmas So Difficult For A Child?

Holidays / The Basics //

Children of divorce get used to a particular routine. While living in a different house every week or leaving your home to spend every other weekend with a different parent might not see like a routine to us as adults, to a child it is what has become their routine. It is a schedule that has become a routine they can count on to happen. They can look forward to seeing the other parent every other Friday. Or they know that each Saturday morning they will be moving to the other parent’s home for a week. After months or even years, this convoluted schedule becomes comfortable and doable for children of divorce.

One thing that makes the holidays difficult for children is the interruption of routines and rituals. Routines lend themselves to a sense of security, and everyone knows that routines go out the window during the holiday times. Please encourage single parents to try and keep the routines the same as much as they can.

Tell the single parents in your church that when things have to change, let their child know: “Things are going to be a little bit different today. We’re going to do such and such.” Routines, rituals and traditions are very important to children. Encourage the single parents to make concessions for the kids if the adult’s schedule gets hectic.

Last week and this next week my church’s choir is practicing every night for our Christmas cantata. One of our young single moms, who has a two year old and a three year old, is being a real trooper to be there for each rehearsal. She has made concessions for her kids. She brings their pajamas to the rehearsal and dresses them for bed before they get in the car to return home. She also is allowing her kids to sleep in the living room with her for these two weeks. Their bedtime is about the only quality time they are spending together these two weeks.

Why it is important to keep some of the same traditions for kids during the holidays?

Many times during the holidays single parents want to protect their children. They don’t want the kids to remember how things used to be when the parents were married. They try to make everything different, and sometimes that’s a mistake. Sometimes it’s okay to keep things the same. Children feel security in family traditions.

Perhaps when married, the parents took the kids to see the Nutcracker every year. Now, as a single-parent family, money is tight and the parent considers not taking the children to a performance. The children really enjoy the Nutcracker, so naturally they want to continue this tradition. Encourage the single parent to add to the tradition rather than abolish it. For instance, perhaps the single parent could afford to take the kids to a less-expensive matinee instead of an evening performance. Maybe the single parent could take the children for hot chocolate after the event. Suggest little subtle things they can do to blend the old tradition with a new tradition.

Encourage the single parents to sit down and talk to the children. Tell the single parent to ask the children what they want to change as far as traditions. Perhaps it is time the single parent and kids developed some new traditions this year. I like to encourage single parents to try one new Christmas celebration each year. The ones they like can become long-term traditions.

Urge the single parents in your church to go with the flow of what their children want to do. Any change the single parent makes, needs to feel comfortable to them. If the single parent doesn’t feel comfortable, that will impact the children.

What new Christmas celebration can you suggest to the single parents in your church?






About the Author

Linda has been a children’s ministry director, developed DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids,, 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