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Holidays, Birthdays and Step-Families
The Effects of Divorce
by Kim Hess


When children have to cope with the divorce of their parents, they also begin the process of having two different homes. One with mom and one with dad.  Children are also affected by not knowing where to celebrate special days of the year. Talk to your former spouse about a parenting agreement. The agreement should cover where the children will spend birthdays and holidays. Once you decide on how to parent the children, write up the agreement and sign it with your former spouse.  Becoming part of a step-family also affects your children after your divorce and has many challenges. Here are some tips to lessen the stress.


Everyone experiences stress around the holidays.  Some stress that your children might experience is memories of “how it used to be” when their family was intact.  Make sure the holiday visitation schedule is well mapped out.  Some parents will find the children adjust better if the day is not divided.  For example, one parent can celebrate Christmas Eve and the other Christmas day with the children.  This will lessen the effects of your children feeling overwhelmed and anxious by having to celebrate in two different homes on the same day.


Have two birthday celebrations. Have one birthday celebration at your house and another one at the other parent’s home. This is a positive solution and will help ease your child’s mind as to where to celebrate their birthday. 


Don’t expect your children to bond instantly with a step-parent or step-siblings.  Acknowledge and help the child mourn the loss of their family. Encourage bonding between the step family by eating meals together, playing sports and other fun activities that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

When children begin going back and forth between two homes, they can experience feelings of confusion and insecurity.  They may become difficult to handle or overreact to minor things.  Give your children time to adjust and make an effort to have them feel safe and secure no matter what home they are in, what special occasion they are celebrating, or what family they are with.

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