The holiday season seems to come upon us earlier and earlier each year. Even before Thanksgiving, I started to notice all of the signs — colorful lights strung in front of houses, a glimpse of lit trees through windows and cheerful holiday tunes on the radio. Along with the high spirits the holiday season, a package of stress often arrives. This is especially true for divorced couples that struggle over how to make plans that optimize the holidays for themselves and, of course, their children — who want nothing more than normality.
With divorce rates still at almost 50%, negotiating which parent spends what holiday with the children is for many a major part of the holiday ritual. This issue is often more potent during the first holiday after a separation or divorce has taken place. There are an infinite number of arrangements that are possible, but remember this: You are much better equipped to put things into perspective than your children are. In other words, you and your ex need to be the adults in the room!
So with this in mind, here are three things to remember as you and your ex make your holiday plans:
- Be flexible. Some couples are able to call a truce during the holidays and arrange for everyone to spend it together. However, I’ve found that couples who can manage this are more the exception than the rule. The most important thing is to not let your kids feel torn between their two parents. For example, it’s often possible that each parent spends part of the day with the children, or one parent has them on Christmas eve and takes them to the other parent Christmas morning. The goal is to make this all as conflict free as possible for them.
- Remember, you may be winging it. You may have had very little precedent for handling the kids on holidays, unless you yourself had divorced parents when you grew up. So if you and your ex came from an intact home, you are winging it with issues like this. If you didn’t, then remember what is was like for you and learn from your parents good judgment or mistakes. What you do this year may not end up being the best solution for you and your family; and if this is the case, learn from this year’s experience so that you can improve on it next year.
- Put the kids first. If you are a parent struggling with the emotional strain of divorce yourself right now, I would very strongly urge you to do all you can to put your own needs, pain and perhaps resentments aside for now. Instead, focus on what’s in the best interest of your children. Of course, this varies with the child’s age, but if the holidays are an especially difficult emotional time, you will probably recover a lot faster than your child will.
Something to keep in mind is that the holidays are a time when practically everybody in the family feels the effects of divorce more than they do at other times of the year. So be mindful of making sure that regardless of your relationship with your ex, your children come first. Divorce is never a simple matter logistically or emotionally, but with a little awareness of how this affects your children, can greatly decrease everyone’s stress this holiday season.