Dealing with Changing Traditions

She Said

With the Christmas holidays just over, you may recall encountering conflict over how to deal with the change in family traditions due to a divorce or separation when kids are involved.  While everyone’s circumstances are different, here are three tips on how to navigate through holidays and other special occasions in 2015 and beyond.

Listen to the Kids

While you may be hurting, your children are hurting more and in most instances in ways neither you nor they will fully understand until they are much older.  As such, put your children’s needs first and take your cues from them.  Find out what traditions are important to the children and try to figure out ways to preserve them. For example, our family makes homemade cranberry sauce every Thanksgiving in the U.S.  Each year, my ex took the lead, using his mother’s recipe.  It was obvious from talking to, and watching, the children that this tradition was not only important and worth salvaging but it was a special time for them with their dad.  So now my ex and the kids make the cranberry sauce, and I am happy to relinquish that tradition.

It’s Just a Day

You can make any day special.  A birthday can be celebrated on any day.  You can have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve if you don’t have Christmas one year.  It’s the family time and memories that are important.  If you don’t make a big deal out of the date on the calendar, chances are your children aren’t going to either.

Develop New Traditions

While you should make every effort to figure out a way to salvage a few important family traditions, be sure to start some new traditions.  If the family always took a trip hiking in the summer, come up with a new family activity to share with the children in the summer.

Divorce is hard for all involved, but if you keep in mind that this is really about the children, you can hopefully successfully navigate the common pitfalls.

(Originally posted on

He Said

A sensitive topic indeed but I am thankful for the new traditions that I have found myself sharing with my kids.

Pre divorce there were traditions that me and my spouse were beginning to undertake in our years of engagement and early years of marriage – most notably gatherings with friends and family during the holidays. There was euphoria building within me as we began down the road of traditions however all of that fell apart as we separated. It left me reeling and lost as to how to proceed.

What I have noticed is the traditions are not lost but slightly transformed as the lives of my kids and I take a different path in transforming the desired traditions into something even more meaningful and relevant. Thus, not all is lost as we began to explore things that make us happy as a family unit.

  1. I make sure to explore various activities that they haven’t tried and expose them to undiscovered territory – like ice skating.
  2. I follow the lead of my children – they provide a great barometer in creating life-long moments that can spring forth new traditions.
  3. A supportive and involved family helps to solidify old traditions prior to marriage that now include my young ones as part of these celebrations.
  4. You don’t realize you might be starting a tradition until you partake in the activity and see how it sticks with your kids. Therefore, keep trying.
  5. Going to Disney World doesn’t have to be the only tradition. Other traditions start off small and grow over time. Keep an eye on these experiences as they develop into full-fledge family traditions.

As always, change isn’t the easiest thing to overcome, but history has shown us time and time again that we can overcome many circumstances. There are times my kids make mention of something we have done in the past but they are quick to take notice of new things. And most of the new things start off very simplistic – spending time at the park every Wednesday during the Fall – and the feelings that come with this give all of us comfort in the direction we are headed. It is a good feeling to know that while our lives change we begin to talk about these events with pleasure.

“Daddy, remember last Christmas we spent at Grandma’s house and we put up the tree? I can’t wait to do it this year!” Neither can I.

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