The first holiday season after a divorce is bound to have some challenges for both you and your children. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help your family survive the season and make the holidays more enjoyable.

Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Your child may feel sad or even angry about the divorce and the holidays will only stir that up. Instead of trying to spin the circumstances into something  positive (“You get two Christmases!”), acknowledge the child’s actual feelings. Example: “You’re really sad that we aren’t all together this year.” or “You are angry that you won’t see your dad on Christmas.” This allows the child to feel understood and to know that their feelings matter.

Maintain meaningful traditions.  Continuing traditions that are meaningful to you and your children will give them a sense of stability during this time of change.  When the children see that their favorite Hanukkah ritual will still continue even though Mom isn’t there, it comforts them and they learn that they will still make great memories.

Create new traditions. In addition to keeping old traditions, this is an ideal time to create new traditions that will give you and your children an opportunity to make the season more meaningful. If you’ve always wished that you have more connection, spirituality or relaxation during the holidays, build that into your time spent with your children. Divorce can be a time that feels out of control to many children, so creating new traditions with them is a great way for to make their new family life uniquely theirs.

Co-parent the holidays as a team. This is a great way to show your children that you are working together to parent them. Help your child pick out a gift for their other parent. Encourage your child to have fun when he or she is with the other parent. Talk with your co-parent about gifts and collaborate on the purchases. Often divorce changes standards of living for one or both parents and there can be negative feelings if one parent gives an expensive gift and the other does not.

Take care of yourself. You will most likely have times over the holidays when you do not have your children. Plan ahead for how you would like to spend that time. To some, it is ideal to be alone and relax while that might feel lonely to another. There isn’t a right or wrong way, it’s about what is meaningful and enjoyable to you. Reach out to family and friends to stay connected and feel supported.

The holidays are an opportunity for connection and making memories. It can also be a stressful time because of unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves. Recognizing that everyone will have reactions to the changes will allow you to support your kids and be gentle with yourself during this holiday season.