Start talking about holiday plans and most people get a little frantic. We all know the holiday season is full of stress, and pressure for parents. Holidays can stir up lots of feelings for your children. If this is their first Christmas following your family separation, the loss of the intact family may hit them hard. While you can’t take away the pain your children feel, how you spend the first holiday after a separation or divorce impact children’s perception about family change. One of the best things you can do for your kids is use this time to rebuild a sense of family. Kids need to know that life will go on and they are going to be okay. The goal for parents, grandparents and other significant adults in kids’ lives is to help them manage the season with traditions and activities that allow them to see a new family structure and feel loved and cared for.

Keep your emotions in check

Your kids will be take their cues from you. The holidays won’t be hard just for your children; they may also be difficult for you. Make sure you are paying attention to your feelings and needs this holiday season. Take stock of where you might need a little extra support and create a plan for taking care of those needs. How you handle your emotions models for your kids how they can handle theirs.

Talk, talk, talk

Be sure you share with your kids, as soon as you know, what the holiday schedule will look like for your family. Discuss what will be different and what will stay the same. It’s helpful to discuss with kids what’s most important to them this holiday and what will be tough. It can be difficult to see your kids struggle, avoiding conversations will make things more problematic for them.

Listen, listen, listen

Listen, rather than lecture! Kids need so much more of this than we give them. Let them vent about their feelings and frustrations. Affirm what they say, without giving judgement. Some kids will stuff their feelings to protect you. Reassure them that it’s okay to talk about their sadness, loneliness or anger.

Let less stress be your guide

Lots of parents facing their first Christmas after a separation or divorce wonder if they should spend special holiday events together for their children. While it’s great when both parents can participate in special occasions, it’s only a good thing when parents can manage the event well and keep it tension free. Creating conflicts in front of the kids will undermine any good intentions.

Kym Myers is the Executive Director at Kids 24/7, an organizing dedicated to honor, support and empower kids of divorce. Since 1996, Kym has led parenting education seminars, classes, newsletters and one-on-one sessions which have helped change thousands of kids and families lives. She can be reached at kym@kids 247.org