There’s no place like home for the holidays, but what if “home” is in two separate places?
If you’re divorced or separated, that’s your children’s current situation – and it’s often not an easy one. For that reason, the holiday season might not be quite as merry and bright as it used to be. In fact, this time of year can make you feel a lot of stress and anxiety. If you’re trying to navigate the holidays as a co-parent, there are a few ways to make the situation easier – and maybe even merry – for everyone.
Think about the kids first.
First and foremost, your holiday plans should revolve around the most important people involved: your children. As much as you’d love to get under your ex’s skin, this is certainly not the time to do so. If it’s your first holiday since you’ve separated or divorced, keep in mind that it’s probably a confusing one for your children, particularly if they’re very young. Whether you have the kids for the holidays or not, be conscious of how you speak about your ex when they’re around. Keep your conversation positive and don’t complain or vent to your children about the situation. If your kids are spending a holiday with your ex, try to make that transition seamless by making sure they’re prepared with everything they need from home and emotionally prepped about what’s going to happen.
Make plans early.
If you’re still bickering about where the kids will spend each holiday, it’s likely not going to end up as the happiest time of year – for you or your children. Make plans in advance so everyone is on the same page about where the children will spend each holiday. Whether this requires a phone call with your ex or an appointment with a family mediator, planning in advance can save you a lot of grief – and your kids some undue stress – down the line. Your attorney can also help offer ideas on holiday arrangements that are fair to each co-parent.
Prep your guests.
If you’ll have friends and family joining you and your kids for holiday gatherings, that’s great! Familiar, loving faces will help make the experience more “normal” for your kids. That said, it will have just the opposite effect on your kids if those guests are talking about your ex or the divorce situation. Talk to your guests about what’s off-limits to talk about in front of the kids, and keep in mind that children are a lot more perceptive than adults often think. Those subtle remarks could resonate – and cause distress – with the children.
Learn to share.
While it’s not the ideal situation, if your ex and you live close by, be open to the idea of sharing a special day. For example, you might have the kids at your place for Thanksgiving morning, then drop them at your ex’s for the evening. With a little planning (and some restraint on your kids’ part), they can have an early Thanksgiving dinner at your house and enjoy some seconds (and pie of course) with your ex. For Christmas and other holidays, the same rule applies. Allow children to wake up and celebrate at one house, and then visit the other for the afternoon. Your children love both of you, so why wouldn’t they want to see both of you on these special days?
Be there – even when you’re not
If distance or other situations prevents you from seeing your children during one of the upcoming holidays, make sure your kids know they’re still your top priority. Call for a video chat session so you can tell them you love and miss them and share a bit of the holiday spirit with them. But don’t just call and interrupt what your ex already has planned; schedule some time in advance to talk to your kids, and make sure your ex is in the loop.
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