The holidays are difficult for a family that has been through a divorce. I have personally been through multiple marriages and our families have had to learn how to co-parent with each other through the years. It wasn’t always easy and there are times that we still let anger get the best of us, but we continue to be determined to put our kids’ best interests ahead of our own hurt feelings.
If you have a split family then you know that what used to be a holiday that y’all came together for has now become a constant worry in trying to figure out how to split the holiday with the other parent. It can sometimes turn what the children looked at as a magical time into a stressful time for them. The wonder of the holidays shouldn’t be transformed into a source of trauma for you, your children or their other parents. Learning to co-parent effectively is tricky and takes time, effort, and the cooperation of both parents. Take it from someone who’s learned this the hard way, this truly is the solution that is in the best interest of children. Below are some suggestions that have worked for me on how to make this holiday season and the ones to come less stressful and more miraculous for all.
Plan ahead. Each parent has family obligations during the holidays. Your parenting plan has parenting time already outlined for each parent. Inform extended family in advance of your holiday time with the children. Encourage them to plan the festivities that they wish for your family to attend during this time frame. Sometimes it may not work out during your parenting time. See if you and the other parent can work out arrangements to accommodate these plans. There is nothing wrong with cooperating with each other to make sure the children get the full benefits of family gatherings.
Reassure the children. This time of year can be as stressful for them as it is for you. Make them aware of the game plan for the holidays so they know what to expect. They may be experiencing some anxiety about having to split the holidays between you and the other parent. Give them something to get excited about. I mean, who wouldn’t love to have two Christmases? Double the presents and Christmas goodies sounds like a win to me.
Do the holidays together. This suggestion is not for the faint of heart but rather for the rare families who have worked through their problems and can once again spend time together for the sake of their kids and can jointly attend the children’s school functions, sports, or other extra-curricular activities. If you were able to walk away from your marriage but still remain friends, this could be a good solution. Luckily, I personally have done this whenever possible since my children were young. All four of my boys say they preferred us doing the holidays this way.
Using these tips has resulted in forming a great friendship with my ex-husbands (something I never thought was possible). My four boys have expressed their gratitude to me and their fathers for choosing to put them first on the holidays.Even when it just wasn’t possible to do the holidays together, they were still thrilled to have two holiday celebrations. So, don’t lose hope. Once you have survived the pains of divorce and separation, it is still possible to have all the love and magic your children deserve this holiday season. Merry Christmas!
Juli Bain, Paralegal