Family Dinners after Divorce
APRIL 16, 2018
After a divorce or separation, it might seem unusual to keep coming together for family meals. These regular family dinners, however, can diminish conflict, help kids stay connected to both parents, feel more comfortable about the divorce, and strengthen the parenting team.
It's often difficult and confusing for children to transition from having easy access to both parents prior to divorce or separation, to rarely seeing them in the same place at the same time. Scheduling weekly family dinners after the separation or divorce can ease the confusion for children. The only requirement is that the adults put their differences, hurt feelings, and anger aside once a week and come together without anger or resentment. If you can do this, the children will benefit now and for years to come. Actually, there's a great probability that your children will thank you far into the future for making the effort now.
At first, family dinners can ease the kids (and maybe you) into the separation. When they continue, even after one or both of you have moved on and into new relationships, the rewards are even greater. Set aside one evening each week for one of you to pick up groceries and go to the other's house where the family can work together to cook the meal. Even as the kids get older and more involved socially, it's likely that they will rarely skip the weekly family dinners.
The great thing about a weekly family dinner is that they allow the kids to feel connected as a family even though you are no longer living together. Family dinners also diminish the conflict the children feel when their parents move into new relationships. By maintaining that weekly family time even as new relationship form, the children can see that you are okay with the new situation so they will feel more comfortable with it. They will know that there is no need for them to guard what they say to each of you because they will be able to see that you are open with each other.
If you are able to manage weekly family dinners, you might also consider spending holidays, the children's birthdays, and other special occasions together (along with your new significant others). One of the biggest complaints of children of divorce is having to sacrifice their holidays and special occasions in order to satisfy their parents' needs. That is eliminated when you are able to spend these special times together.
Parental teamwork is especially important as children move through their teenage years. When your children are teens and having more issues of their own, you can draw upon the good working relationship that you maintained through your family dinners and special occasions. You will be better able to present a united front for the children and guide them through challenging issues as they arise.
If you are able to create this positive experience for your children, when they are grown with families of their own, they will share their stories of how much they appreciated those family dinners and holidays so many years ago and possibly help new families follow the same path to help their children.
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