When Children are Angry at Holiday Time

December 23, 2015

Oftentimes, children do not do well with change. This is especially true when changes are life-altering, such as divorce. And, though many kids are easily frustrated and are quick to show anger during and even after the divorce process is over, the holidays can make it feel like the entire family is on an emotional roller coaster.

Consider that, as an adult, you are feeling sad or angry about your marriage coming to an end. The holidays remind you of happier times and it’s not unusual to feel overly emotional between Thanksgiving and New Year’s when you will have to face the fact that things aren’t likely to be the same ever again. If you are feeling the pain, it stands to reason that your children will, too. It’s important, then, to remind yourself — and your children — that different can be exciting and even better.

Here are some tips about dealing with children’s anger during the holidays:

  1. Don’t Play the Blame Game: Your children are looking for answers and, try as you might, depending on their ages and the circumstances of your divorce, you may not be able to convey the facts in a way that will make any sense. For this reason, they may seek to point the finger at you or your ex, lashing out with angry accusations such as “If you loved me you wouldn’t be doing this to our family” and “Dad (or Mom) is so selfish for leaving!”
    Be careful with your responses! Try to diffuse the situation and don’t agree or allow your child to get in the middle of adult issues. It’s important to allow children to express their feelings but remember these are comments from children who are experiencing pain, confusion and disappointment because the world they know seems to be falling apart. Be reassuring and avoid finger-pointing and blaming your ex.

  2. Do the Same Old — Or Create New Traditions: Holiday time is filled with rituals and traditions that your family has probably been involved in for many years. For example, if you always decorate the tree together as a family on Christmas Eve or enjoy Christmas morning with a big breakfast and present opening, the changes brought on by divorce will surely impact the holidays this year. If it’s possible to keep up with some traditions, do so; this will allow kids to ease into change. Also, start some new annual activities; take a drive to look at holiday lights or invite friends over for Christmas morning.

  3. It’s Going to Be OK: Memories of holidays gone by don’t have to fade away because things are different now. It’s OK to talk to your children about traditions and wonderful things that happened last year or the year before. Reminisce about a visit from the grandparents, delicious cookies you made together or a special present they were so excited to receive. You can even look through photos from last year’s celebrations. These activities will help to ground your children and allow them to see that you aren’t forcing them to abandon the past.

Experts say that change is the real reason children become angry. Holiday time is different from other days all by itself. Add in the changes brought on by divorce and your kids may act out because they feel like they have no control of their surroundings. Everything is different. Life is changing and they don’t like it.

While it’s true that things are going to be different in the future, different doesn’t have to mean “bad.” Take the time to point out the positive side of change: more family gatherings, for example, as well as new traditions. Invite the kids to participate in planning some new activities so they feel empowered and involved.

For assistance with visitation schedules or any other family law matter, contact Jonathan Katz, Esq. for a consultation. He has helped countless families get through the divorce process with compassion and a goal of moving forward.

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