The Holiday season can be bittersweet for divorced (or divorcing) families. This cheerful season is a harsh reminder of past celebrations as a happy family.
When the divorce is recent, the holidays can be extra stressful on involved. Here are some tips that will help you share parenting this season without losing your mind.
Here are some tips to share parenting during the holidays without losing your mind:
Have A Detailed Holiday Schedule In Advance
If you’re already divorced you should have a holiday schedule as part as the final divorce decree. If you are still in the process of divorcing, you should agree on a schedule as soon as possible so everyone has ample time to plan.
It’s imperative that you as the parents make this decision and that you do NOT make the children decide. It places an incredible amount of pressure on children to have to choose which parent will spend the holiday alone.
Also, it will save you a lot of headache and disagreements if you have very specific pick up and drop off times for your holiday schedule. Know who is picking up the children, what time, where, and what the children will be bringing. I like to have this in the order, but if your order is silent on the details, be sure to agree to them in writing in advance.
Make Sure The Children & Extended Family Know What Is Going To Happen
Keep in mind that though this won’t be the easiest time for your children, but they’ll handle it better if they know what is going to happen. Make sure they know the schedule so that there is no surprise or confusion when it’s time for the parenting time exchange.
It can also be helpful to prepare your extended family for the exchange. Every holiday I get phone calls about disputes because some family member shows up to the holiday festivities late and wants the children to stay longer so they can spend time with them.
This is unfair to the parent waiting for the children because they are losing out on their holiday time and look like the bad guy when the kids don’t get to spend time with Uncle Joe.
This issue can be solved by letting your extended family know that your children have to go with dad at 6:00 so if Uncle Joe wants to see them he needs to make arrangements to get there earlier.
That being said, keep in mind that both families want to see the children so you both should try to cooperate to make that happen in an effort to make the holidays more joyful for the children.
Stay Focused On The Kids
Holidays can be bittersweet for children of divorce. You get double festivities and double the presents, but you know that one parent may be spending at least part of the holiday alone and that creates an incredible amount of guilt.
Don’t stress your children out by telling them how sad and lonely you will be without them. Make other plans and let them know that you will be ok so that they can enjoy the holiday without feeling guilty.
Try to co-parent as much as you can, especially if this is the first holiday you’re not spending together. I have clients who coordinate with their ex on gifts so they don’t get the children the same things or even go in together on a big gift. And parents who invited (or were invited by) their ex to Thanksgiving or to Christmas morning so the children could open gifts with both parents. This won’t work for all families, but if you have a cordial relationship with your ex this could help if your children are having a difficult time with the first holiday apart.
Your Presence is Better Than Presents
What your children need more than anything for the holiday is new happy memories with you. That does not mean you have to overspend. Divorce can be very expensive and in most cases, you are worse off financially than you were married.
But despite this, many parents go overboard on the first couple of holidays after the divorce out of guilt and to compete with the other parent.
Talk to your ex about holiday gifts. Maybe you can go in on gifts together or at least share the list. If your ex is going to buy a big gift, maybe you can coordinate and buy the accessories.
Don’t allow these feeling to put you into debt. It’s not a competition. Memories and experience will outlast any toy.
Make New Traditions
One of the most difficult aspects of sharing parenting during the holidays is the loss of traditions.
Make the transition easier for your children by trying to keep as many old traditions as possible while adding in some new.
You can still celebrate a holiday on the day before or after. You can make it more exciting for the children by adding a new twist.
I know one father who gets Thanksgiving in the even years so he and his children have an “odd” Thanksgiving the day before Thanksgiving during the odd years. They make silly costumes and concoct an odd menu. They still get the quality time and memories even during the years they don’t spend Thanksgiving together.
You should also make new traditions for yourself when you don’t have the children. Have a “Friendsgiving” with your friends, go on a short getaway or day trip or spa day if you’ll be alone for Christmas, get dressed up and party for New Years. The options are endless. Look at it as time for you as opposed to time without your children.
They’ll be happier knowing that you are happy and having fun.
Have any tips for co-parenting during the holidays? Leave a comment below on our Facebook page.