Have you just been through a divorce, and the holidays have you stressed? Fear not. This is not undiscovered ground; many parents have been through what you are experiencing right now. Here are some tips on handling the holidays when you are sharing custody of your child or children.
1. Make New Traditions (and Break the Ones You Hated).
Did you always want to toss that snow-flocked tree? Despise Grandma Betty’s Fruitcake? Want to scream over that gingerbread house that always collapsed in on itself? Pour yourself a glass of eggnog and let it go. Now’s the time!
When you’re starting a new life after a divorce, you and your children are already dealing with a major shift. Attempting to hold on to old traditions just because they are traditions isn’t necessarily the best thing to do. Actually, you might find yourself quite frustrated because of it. When you’re undergoing a life overhaul, nobody expects you to hold on to absolutely everything from your old life. Your kids already know that things are changing, and you won’t be able to fool them into thinking otherwise by going through the motions. Now is the time to make changes and re-evaluate your holiday traditions. Keep the ones you love. Make up some new ones you and your kids will love. Toss the ones you don’t.
2. Plan. In. Advance!
As much as some divorced parents may hate it, it is more true during the holidays than at any other time of the year: communication is key. When it comes to dealing with your ex and your mutual children, an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.
Coordinate the gifts so that your kids don’t get duplicates. Make sure everyone is crystal clear on pickups and drop-offs. If you don’t have a strict custody schedule in place yet, try to get the holiday schedule in writing from your ex so that everyone’s expectations are out in the open.
If you want your kids to have the best holiday they can have (and don’t we all?), do what you have to do to avoid any problems. Even the smallest miscommunication can explode into a full-on brawl, especially with the pressure and stress of the holidays upon us. Your kids don’t want this bad memory, and neither do you. This is why communicating is so important.
3. Be Flexible
So what if you don’t get the kids for December 25? There is no written law that states that you must celebrate Christmas Day on Christmas Day.
Make your Christmas Day the day after Christmas, or the Saturday before. If you don’t have the kids on the actual holiday, relish in the alone time instead. Indulge in a little self-care, take a road trip, or just sleep in and hang out in your pajamas all day long. Heaven knows you’ve probably been through a lot this year and deserve the break.
4. Don’t Get Caught Up in “The One-Up”
If you get mixed up in a game of who-can-spend-the-most with your ex, it won’t make your kids happier. It won’t make your life easier. It won’t make your ex rue the day they wronged you, either. Give from the heart, do what you can afford, and give your kids the one thing they really need: your undivided time and attention.
5. Most Importantly: Give Yourself Some Grace.
This time of the year can be tough on a person. If you’ve been going through a divorce or a custody battle this year, you might already be in an emotionally compromised state going in to December. Don’t make it harder on yourself than it has to be. If you forget something, forgive yourself. If you need some “me time”, make sure you get it. Being kind to yourself is something we often forget to do in the whirlwinds of divorces, custody battles, and, yes, Christmas. It’s important to make sure you take care of your own mental and emotional wellbeing, so that you can be there for your children during your family time together.
Happy holidays from all of us to you, and a happy New Year as well!