Keep children out of the middle. Adults need to set boundaries for the benefit of the children who may be closest to all adults involved and who feel powerless over breakups. Children need to be reminded often that none of this is their fault.
Focus on the positive. It’s OK to be sad as a parent who has lost a blended or intact family, but try to buffer your kids from your sadness. They need you now because they have less ability and skill to manage their emotions than parents. Parents should not burden children with their emotions and risk them feeling like parent caretakers.
The holidays can stir up anniversary reactions. These are reactions to past losses that are more present during high-intensity events like holidays and special occasions. Whether it’s the anniversary of the Newtown tragedy or other family losses, how a parent processes these losses is paramount to helping their children successfully work through them.
Be aware and acknowledge and recognize reactions to past losses within yourself and embrace signs that your children are experiencing loss and grief reactions.
Allow children to talk, and listen and acknowledge their grief. Pretending it’s not there will increase anxiety and intensity the loss. Validation of grief is the key to moving to a better, more joyful place during this holiday season.
Dr. Kate Roberts is a psychologist and parent coach on the North Shore. Questions can be directed to www.drkateroberts.com www.twitter.com/DrKateParenting, www.facebook.com/Dr.KateRobertsParenting or www.pinterest.com/DrKateParenting.