For many of my clients, the holidays after divorce can be a difficult time. Many are keenly aware of the loss they have suffered as the result of their divorce and will go to great lengths to preserve a sense of family. The changes to the family, for many, are in stark contrast to the ideal Norman Rockwell Holiday memories they want their kids to have. People also, quite reasonably, want their children with them on those special days. All of that is reasonable, but when the wish to have your kids with you on a special Holiday turns into conflict between you and your ex, your kids can suffer.
It’s a bit ironic that in this season when we are supposedly celebrating peace on earth, some of the greatest interfamily conflict can occur and if you’re not careful, your kids will be right in the middle of a holiday visitation disaster. Here are just a few ideas about how to bring “Peace on Earth” to your kids for the holidays after divorce:
Consider Celebrating Some Part of the Holiday Together with Your Ex.
I know, you worked hard to get away from your former spouse, but your kids didn’t. For their sake, consider putting the past behind you and let your kids open presents with both of their parents. That said, if you just can’t be in the same room with the other parent without it devolving into a slug fest, then reconsider. But if you both can keep it together long enough for the kids to have a nice holiday, you will have done something very kind for them. This is the season of giving after all.
Coordinate Presents with the Other Parent.
Much of the holidays after divorce conflict we see is when the parents compete with each other over the present giving. Don’t let that happen. Rather, spend some time early coordinating the gift giving with the other parent. Perhaps consider purchasing joint gifts. Don’t let something as beautiful as gift giving turn into an ugly competition.
Don’t Project Your Own Emotions About the Holidays After Divorce Onto Your Kids.
Holiday visitation stirs up all kinds of feelings and emotions. Regret, guilt, anger, resentment, loneliness- these are feelings that can pop up in spades during the holidays. However, if these are your emotions, they might not necessarily be what your kids are feeling. We have a tendency to project our own feelings and frustrations onto others, when that is usually not appropriate. Be aware of that and keep your expression of emotions in check. Stay selfless and make the holidays about others and what their needs are. Be mindful, that your kids’ needs will likely include time with the other parent.
Plan the Holiday Visitation and Travel Schedule Early.
Don’t just assume that your ex will be aware of or will cooperate in fulfilling your expectations for the perfect holiday with the kids. Communicate early and plan ahead with your kids’ other parent to reduce confusion or frustration when the holiday comes around. Don’t assume anything about the schedule. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to talk about the holidays. Start talking and coordinating in July – or even earlier. That way, when the holiday comes around, there will be no surprises.
In summary, the holidays after divorce can be a time when cherished memories are created. However, they can also be a time of heartache and terrible memories if not done properly. Don’t let problems with holiday visitation be a flashpoint for your kids to remember how badly you and your ex behaved. Let it be “Peace on Earth” for your kids. That means that you need to take responsibility to be a peacemaker with the other parent.
These are just a few ideas. Maybe you have some ideas or tips. Share them with me!