The holidays are coming, and instead of spreading good tidings of great cheer, your family is feeling the fracture and heartache of divorce. If you’re especially sad this year, you can imagine what your teenagers are feeling. Whether they show it or not, your kids are deeply affected by their parents break-up, and the normal feelings of loneliness, abandonment and sorrow are amplified during the holiday season – a time that used to be full of memories of family togetherness.
The first holiday after a divorce is usually the hardest and brings the most questions. Do the kids celebrate the holiday with mom or dad? Can everyone get along for a family meal together? Can certain family traditions be maintained?
Here are a few ways to make the holidays less traumatic for teens after a divorce:
Make Plans in Advance. Talk to your ex-spouse and children long before the holidays are upon you and decide how you will handle the holiday schedule. While some families prefer to spend the entire day or week with one parent and then alternate the following year, other families are able to split the time (e.g., the morning with mom and the evening with dad) without disrupting the celebration.
If you won’t see your child this holiday, be sure to at least talk on the phone and send the positive message that the holidays are still special even though you’re not together. In most cases, it’s best not to separate the children (if you have more than one) so that they can lean on each other for support and maintain some sense of continuity.
Adolescents who attend therapeutic boarding schools are by no means alone in their effort to learn a new way of interacting with their families and the world around them. Although their families may be miles away, the best boarding schools for teens with emotional, behavioral and learning issues actively work to involve parents in every aspect of treatment.
At Stone Mountain School, a private all-boys boarding school in North Carolina, a comprehensive family program ensures that the adolescents aren’t the only ones working to make positive changes in their lives. Their parents are learning right alongside them so that when the students return home, new skills and communication strategies are in place to make for a more peaceful and productive home environment.
“No matter how much success the boys have had at school, if their parents haven’t changed along with them, their old behavior patterns are likely to re-emerge,” advises Leigh Uhlenkott, MS, LPC, NCC, LMHC, the clinical director at the school.