By Windsor Rose Ferrara, M.Ed.
- Ask your family members or friends to share a positive memory of your co-parent with your children at some point during the day.
- Ask your children what traditions are important to them. Work hard to continue those traditions. Do your children associate Thanksgiving with a favorite coffee cake, a certain Turkey Trot or road race, or a favorite cousin? Let your children know that you have heard them and you will work hard to incorporate their desires into your new traditions.
- Tell your child that you understand that there are important people in their world who are not with them today. Let them know that while it is okay to miss people, it is also okay to focus on the people who are present.
- Plan in advance a time for your children to speak with their other parent. Let your children know that they will have space and time to communicate with their parent. A simple Response Required email can be sent letting your co-parent know when three good times are to speak with the children on Thanksgiving. Your co-parent can respond by choosing one of the three options.
- Let all the friends and family who you will be celebrating with know that your divorce or separation is not an acceptable topic of discussion, and that you will not tolerate ANY negative comments about your co-parent.
- Remember that your children’s job is to grow and change! Allow them the space to do their job. Your middle or high-school age child may want to go to a Thanksgiving Day football game with their friends. Our inclination as parents can be to say NO…maybe we want to spend the whole day together as a family, maybe the game is inconvenient. Ask yourself if the child’s request is age-appropriate, safe, and healthy. If the answers to those questions are yes, try to accommodate their request.
- Be flexible. Always be flexible. Let your children know that you and your co-parent have forced them to be very flexible children, and that you are willing to be a very flexible adult.
- Acknowledgement goes a long way! Let your child know that establishing new traditions can be difficult. Let them know that you are open to feedback, and that you value their feelings and their opinions.
- If you or someone else hurt your child’s feelings, made her feel uncomfortable or insulted your co-parent, apologize to your child. Let her know that it is never okay with you for anyone to make her feel uncomfortable.
- . Let your child know that you are very thankful to spend this time with him. Do not focus on the next holiday, the visitation schedule, or next year’s holiday schedule. Focus on this Thanksgiving with your child. Teach your child how to live in the present, and make him/her feel like spending time with him is your greatest joy!
Windsor Ferrara is a parent coordinator with a background in elementary and special education. Windsor has a history of putting the needs of children first, and can help parents make decisions quickly and with consensus. Windsor is a mother to children in elementary, middle and high school, so she is keenly aware of the decisions facing parents today with regard to scheduling, technology, and extra-curricular and summer activities.