Holiday season is here! These festive holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, can be exceedingly difficult for children and their parents after divorce. How you handle the holidays in your new family dynamic is important to figure out so that you are not simply on auto-pilot and expecting the holidays to be as they have in the past. Things do not have to be worse than they were before, but they will definitely be different. The opportunity to create a positive experience out of a mostly negative situation depends on the divorced parents’ ability to plan ahead and limit their level of conflict.
If this is the first holiday season following your divorce, keep in mind the loss of family might be very hard for the children. It is hard to witness but, while you can’t take away their pain, you can decide how to spend the first holiday and impact the children’s
perception about how the family dynamic has changed. Keep in mind, these holidays
won’t just be hard for the kids, they will probably be hard for the parents as well.
This will be the first time you are not doing everything together as a cohesive unit. You might feel anger, sadness, loneliness and more, but it is extremely important to do “your job” and raise your children in a loving and safe environment.
Most divorced parents will do better if they treat each other like business partners: Your relationship is formal, structured, relatively uninvolved, governed by clear rules of behavior, and polite but not overly friendly (Emery, 2008). Reaching a long-term deal and being flexible will work to everyone’s benefit.
There are a few methods you guys can try, and it really comes down to what works best with each situation and what is best for your children. One option is alternating holidays, meaning you must deal with the disappointment of not spending every holiday with your children. If that doesn’t seem like a plausible idea, you can attempt to split the holidays, which makes it so both parents get to spend some time with their children on each holiday. This can make the holidays even more chaotic and hectic, trying to please everyone at once. So, there is always the alternative where both parents dig deep within themselves and manage to be at the same table with each other during the holidays.
In order to keep your sanity during this time, you will need to accept your parenting plan and choose to make the best of it as it is. Schedule your holiday plans around your parenting agreement. Whatever you and your ex decide, remember to cut back on obligations and place quality time with your children at the top of your holiday to-do list.
The key to successful holiday scheduling for divorced parents is to plan in advance, to maintain a consistent level of flexibility and cooperation while consistently considering the least disruptive schedule for their children (Rubin, 2013).
It can also helpful to discuss with kids what’s most important to them during this holiday season but this could also be the hardest part. Communication is key like it is in any relationship. Talk to your children, explain to them that you aren’t giving them the presence that they want, or that they won’t see mommy until Sunday or whatever the situation is; make sure you communicate.
While these tips offer a good head start on the holidays it is by no means a meticulous list. Each family is different and all the situations need their own special schedule. Just remember to keep the children in mind when planning out such a busy time. We want our children to experience the innocence of childhood for as long as possible.