It may be the first or the fifth-year post-divorce that you are celebrating the holidays, but that doesn’t always make it easier. It is difficult to get used to your “new normal”, especially during this time of year. Splitting or alternating holidays with the children, travel arrangements, spending extra time with extended family, and the financial drain gift giving can bring are all reasons that make the holiday season extra stressful for divorced and separated families. Below are six brutally honest tips for surviving the holidays as a divorced or separated parent:
- Plan Ahead: Have a detailed plan about where you and your children will be during the holidays. This will eliminate last-minute surprises or schedule changes. Often times, this will be incorporated into a Judgment and Decree detailing a holiday schedule. However, it is not always included. It is important to communicate with the other parent and get agreements in writing (text or email) to make sure it is confirmed. Make sure to also keep the kids updated on the schedule, which will eliminate some stress for them as well.
- Avoid a Gifting Competition: An often-unspoken problem divorced parents face is the desire to outdo the other. A gifting competition is a no-win proposition, often leaving you in debt, overwhelmed and hurt. Too often, we hear about a parent who buys a dog for their child, even though they know the pet will not be able to live at the other parent’s house. Yes, children may love the gift, but it isn’t worth added stress on the child.
- Behave Like an Adult: Maintain your composure and remain civil and businesslike with the other parent. Remember your children still love them, and speaking rudely about the other parent in front of your children will upset them and exacerbate their stress. Make sure their aunts, uncles and grandparents follow the same rules. Children would rather feel at peace, so avoid the bickering. Otherwise, when they grow older, they might not want to visit.
- Put your Children First: This is the most important tip. After a divorce or separation, there is often a mixture of negative emotions: sadness, anger and disappointment. Make sure you listen to your children’s concerns and let them know that it is okay to share these emotions. Letting them vent can be a big help.
- Create New Traditions: It’s a new chapter, meaning now is the time for new, unique holiday traditions. Instead of decorating the Christmas tree, going caroling or hanging holiday lights (which you may have done with both parents in the past), begin a family game night, run a 5k or volunteer to feed the homeless with your children. New traditions help kids focus on the fun, alleviate their stress, and makes the season special.
- Give Yourself the Gift of Happiness: Divorced or separated parents may feel sad, alone, and stressed over the holidays. Occasionally, because of the established visitation schedule, a parent might find they have more free time that they know what to do with when their child is with the other parent. Your children are learning to adapt to their new schedule, and you’ll need to adapt as well. Use this free time to do something special or create a tradition for yourself. This could be anything from a night out with friends to volunteering at an animal shelter – whatever makes you happy. By prioritizing your happiness, you will be more upbeat during the time you get to spend with your children for the holidays.
If you have questions about custody or your holiday schedule, give us a call for a free consultation at 952-746-2350.