If you're facing your first holiday season as a newly-separated or divorced parent, you're likely doing so with some sense of sadness and anxiety. No matter what your custody and visitation agreement is with your spouse, the kids are probably going to be spending some part of their holidays with their other parent. Co-parenting during the holidays can get messy. Notice I said “can” because it doesn’t have to be messy at all, if you do it right.
Here are some tips which may help you avoid getting into an acrimonious dispute with your ex-partner this holiday season:
Talk to your ex-partner about arrangements for Holidays as far in advance as possible. Neither of you need the stress of trying to sort arrangements at the last minute and it is only likely to heighten tensions between you which will cause the children to be anxious ;
Once you have worked out arrangements with your ex-partner communicate these with the children in order to show a united front and reduce any worry the children may have about splitting their time between both parents ;
Try not to compare this holiday season with how it was before the separation. You are entering a whole new world and change can be positive;
It’s important to put on a positive front for the children, but don’t bottle up your own feelings. It might be useful to speak with a family member, friend or a family therapist about how you feel;
Try not to control your ex-partner’s time with the children. Imagine how you would feel if they were dictating your time with the children. As a parent, they are responsible for making appropriate arrangements for the children, as are you. Unless, the children are at risk of harm, you should trust your ex-partner’s judgement on his/her plans with the children;
You can’t please everyone. Do what you think will be best for the children and don’t feel pressured to please others ;
Remember money can’t buy love – don’t feel pressured into buying presents you can’t afford, set a budget and don’t try to compete with the other parent. The children will be more concerned about having a happy and relaxed time with you both during the holidays;
Make it clear to your family that things will be done differently this year but that they are to be positive about the new arrangements in front of both you and the children;
You may have other issues to resolve with your ex-partner aside from the holidays including issues as to finances, if at all possible avoid getting into a dispute about these issues during this time. The holidays are stressful enough and it might be sensible to wait until the New Year before addressing these issues with your ex-partner.
You can make the holidays fun and memorable for the kids as well as for yourself, Here’s how:
First, remember that a holiday doesn't have to be a one-day celebration. Most kids won't turn down a chance to celebrate any holiday multiple times. Create new traditions that will give them some fond memories of their first holidays without their parents together.
Second, make plans for yourself for those holidays when you won't be with your kids. You may want to spend time with other family members or friends. You could spend these holidays doing something nice for someone else, like volunteering to serve a holiday meal at a local mission. If you're fine with being alone, use this time to pamper yourself or simply enjoy the solitude, either at home or on a short getaway.
Don’t Let Divorce Ruin Your Holidays
If you are facing a separation or divorce this holiday season, remember that you are not alone. While everything may be harder this year, remember that you have the power to make it better. This year may be tough, but moving on with your life and helping your children adjust can be accomplished one step at a time.
Remind Yourself: It Will Get Easier
The first of everything—especially the holidays—are usually the worst. At the same time, don’t judge yourself if the first or first few are a breeze, and grief sudEach one can get a little easier. You will create new memories, new traditions, and feel stronger that you got through this, overcame it, and reached the other side.
Holiday schedules should be part of any co-parenting plan, so if you and your co-parent haven't worked out how you will split your time with your kids during the holidays, now is the time to do it!
I hope my advice has been helpful and I wish you all the very best and hope you have a wonderful holiday season and very happy New Year!