The holiday season is always difficult for divorced parents and their children. Parents have to let go of old grudges and bad memories so that they can work together and make the season special for the kids, who may be feeling sad at the realization that their family is now divided. Young children can be especially affected by the post-divorce holidays because routine makes them feel safe, and this year they are facing unfamiliar new traditions.
Here are some ways that you and your spouse can work together to make the upcoming holidays as happy and stress-free as possible for the kids and, by extension, for yourselves.
Instead of dwelling on how you will no longer take a Christmas family vacation to Lake Tahoe, remind yourself that there are other enjoyable activities you can do with the kids. Creating new holiday memories can be fun, engaging, and just what you need to sustain a strong and positive relationship with the children.
Here are some ideas:
When holiday visitation schedules are negotiated, flexibility is crucial. The children may already feel unsettled and torn between their parents’ separate worlds, so conflict with your ex-spouse over an issue that could be easily resolved only adds to the stress.
Be willing to compromise: if your in-laws have their hearts set on spending Christmas Eve and morning with the kids, you can agree in exchange for spending the rest of Christmas Day and possibly New Year’s Eve with them. This willingness to work together can set the stage for a successful co-parenting relationship. Parents often agree to alternate Holidays from year to year so that each parent gets to enjoy Holidays with the children, and encourage your children to make use of telephone or video calls to check in with the other parent if they cannot be with them on the actual Holiday.
No matter how angry you are at your former spouse, never put the kids in the middle by making them act as a messenger or asking them questions about what they see and do while with their other parent. This will make them feel conflicted, which is unfair to them. If they volunteer information about the awesome time they had decorating Mom’s tree or going skating with Dad, that’s fine, but never ask for information you don’t really need to know.
If you feel torn or guilty about the way the divorce impacted the kids, you may feel tempted to overdo it on the presents. With difficult divorces, parents have even been known to compete with one another in this area. It’s an unwise move that could cause a child to feel more conflicted than grateful.
Reach out to your former spouse and come to an agreement about spending limits, the number of gifts, and even certain presents that are off-limits, such as age-inappropriate electronics. Establishing a reasonable plan can take the competition out of the equation.
If the children express sadness or regret about a divided family holiday season, let them know that it is natural to feel this way and both their parents love them unconditionally. The same goes for your own feelings- by looking after yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, you model healthy coping behavior for the kids and put yourself in a better position to take care of them. It’s an outcome that may be one of the best gifts you can give them, and we at Carroll Law Office wish you every joy and happiness as you embrace your future.
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