How to Handle Holidays in a Divorced Home

Ah, the holidays. A time of warm fuzzy feelings, family togetherness…and stress. The latter can be especially true if your family is braving a recent divorce. Parenting during divorce is difficult at any time of the year, but the holiday season brings a new set of challenges. The holiday season can also amplify your teen’s rocky emotional state. It is possible for divorced and separated families to get through the holidays with decreased stress (and even cheerful moments!) Here are some tips to help divorced families enjoy the holiday season:

Agree on an Arrangement

Whether you’re on good enough terms with your ex to spend the holidays together, or it is necessary to celebrate separately, it’s crucial to make plans and arrangements sooner rather than later. Map out each holiday that is of importance to your family, and come to a consensus on the details of the day. It may also be beneficial to solidify these plans in your divorce agreement if you have not yet gone through that part of the process. Carving out these plans in advance, gives time to work through any of the challenges in advance of the holiday, not during – which will minimize stress.

Listen to Your Teen

“When children have some input about activities and an idea of what to expect, it helps to reassure them and give them a sense of control in the midst of family changes,” says clinical psychologist JoAnne Pedro-Carroll. Your teen should never feel torn between his or her parents. Express that whatever they want to do will not hurt your feelings or disappoint you, and encourage them to tell you their true feelings. 


The question of keeping or discarding past family traditions does not produce a simple one-size-fits-all answer. Sometimes opening presents in new pajamas on midnight of Christmas Eve may feel a bit off without mom, or playing catch with the football on Thanksgiving may feel wrong without dad. If your teen is avoiding participating in old family traditions, don’t force it. Come up with new, fun activities that they can enjoy and take action to make the holiday season truly special. On the flip side, if your teen wants to hold onto a tradition, help them move forward while still enjoying the familiar.

Take Care of Yourself

Whatever your stress relievers are, make sure you don’t neglect them during the holiday season. Work out, eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep, meditate…do whatever you need to do to keep yourself health. Parents divorce, so don’t beat yourself up and neglect your well-being. Invite your teen to practice self-care as well. Use it as extra quality time spent together and help one another make the best of the situation.

Manage Your Own Expectations

Accept the fact that holidays have changed for your family and try your best not to show your disappointment when things don’t play out your way. Of course, this holiday season will be different than years before and yes, it may get a little uncomfortable at times. But remind yourself that change can oftentimes be a good thing.

Some teenagers struggle with their parents’ divorce more than others. If your teen seems to be having an especially difficult time getting through the holidays, and appears to be depressed or anxious, it may be time to seek help. Download our Parent’s Guide: 10 Warning Signs Your Child May Need Help for free today to learn more.
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