Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult holiday to plan for and experience for parents and children after divorce. Emotions can run high and navigating the challenges of new arrangements can be stressful. Here are some Thanksgiving holiday tips from The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation to help improve Thanksgiving for you and your children.
1) Thanksgiving Brunch. For some parents and children, the thought of not spending quality time together on Thanksgiving can be troubling. There are alternative approaches to “alternating years.” Although most think of Thanksgiving as a dinner tradition, parents can create a new tradition of sharing breakfast or brunch together as an entire family. Many brunch restaurants are open on Thanksgiving morning, offering a cool spin on traditional Thanksgiving food and breakfast combinations. Parents could agree that whomever does not have the children for Thanksgiving dinner, instead has the children for Thanksgiving brunch. Your children will appreciate having time with each parent on the holiday and it can become a unique tradition for them each year.
2) Thankful Turkey. During a thankful themed holiday, try to be thankful for everyone in your life, even your former spouse. Everyone has their own set of traditions. Some make paper turkeys where every feather lists something for which you are thankful. Others take turns sharing “thanks” around the dinner table. Make sure that your thankful list includes your former spouse this year. Even if the two of you cannot share a meal together on the holiday, your children will appreciate knowing that you are thinking of their other parent in a positive way. Emotionally and developmentally, your children will benefit from the positive reinforcement of their relationship with the other parent, which occurs when parents express positive things about the other parent with their children. Even if you do not have a strong relationship with your former spouse, you can surely think of something you are thankful for—“[To the children]I am thankful for how much your [Mom][Dad] loves and cares about you.”
3) Switch Off Hosting Thanksgiving. Just like having Thanksgiving once a year with your ridiculous uncle who eats all the pretzels out of the Chex Mix, Thanksgiving is a time to bring together even the oddest combination of people. If your pretzel snacking uncle makes an appearance, and is tolerated, once a year, might there even be a place for your former spouse? For many it is a long-shot, but for some who have the ability to try a joint Thanksgiving, the result is positive and it is able to happen again, and again. Being together for the holidays can have a significantly positive impact on your children, so long as there is no conflict between parents. It can also set an incredible example for children, and create lasting memories. Try switching off who hosts, or if one of you is more keen on hosting, consider extending an invitation to your former spouse. Turkey Day is only once a year. And you may be surprised with the outcome.
4) A Spin on Friendsgiving. The concept of “Friendsgiving” has become more and more popular over the years. Friendsgiving is the idea of having a separate Thanksgiving meal between friends on another day. Create a mini Thanks-Family-giving by sharing a Thanksgiving meal on the day before or day after Thanksgiving. Parents may find it easier to share time together with children without the impact of other family members present or the meaning of Thanksgiving Day itself. Parents can still celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving together, on another day that lowers some of the heightened emotions that come with the holiday. Everyone can contribute dishes and share a meal together, even if it’s not the actual day. And of course, two Thanksgiving meals only means extra leftovers for everyone! And that’s a good thing. Right?
Although this time of year can be very challenging for divorced parents and children, it can be an opportunity to improve co-parenting relationships. After divorce, you can still be thankful for the accomplishments (although there may have been bumps along the way) that you and your former spouse have had in raising your children both during and after your marriage. On that note, Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.