The Best Holiday Gift for Your Children

The holidays can be a stressful time for newly separated families, where all of the usual traditions are up in the air, the children’s schedule may be uncertain, and children may be caught in the middle.

The very best gift you and your former spouse can give your children this holiday season is the gift of peace. While this may sound ‘corny’, in fact the research overwhelmingly shows that keeping kids out of conflict during and after separation is the best gift that separating parents can give. All year long, but especially during the holidays, kids need permission to love both of their parents, to enjoy time with each parent, and to look forward to the next time they see each parent. Research shows that children who are not exposed to parental conflict do better in the long term than children who are exposed to parental conflict.

And, it is not only ‘fighting’ that children need to be shielded from. Of course, it is best if kids are not exposed to arguments, whether about sharing time, new partners, the schedule, or other adult issues. But our children are smart – they also pick up on non-verbal cues, and the things that are not said about the other parent. They pick up on conflict – whether explicit or not – from a mile away. And, even when we think it doesn’t, it affects them.

Having a plan for the holidays can greatly reduce the risk of exposing children to conflict and can help your children experience positive holiday memories even in a difficult and transitional time. Mediators can help build such a plan in a positive and supportive environment.