Whether the focus is on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, or any religion-specific holidays or traditions, the season is fast approaching. While challenges come with the holidays, they are often intensified with divorced or separated families. It can be tough for children to cope; the thought of coming together as one big family is often tarnished; and traditional and digital media seem to never stop reminding us that the holidays are a time for the celebration of family.
Moms and dads need to help their “new” family start new traditions so children have things to look forward to when the holidays come. Ideally, the goal is to change everyone’s mindset from dwelling on the past to focusing on the excitement of starting something new. The key is learning how to transition and adjust. This affects all of us — the children, you, and your co-parent.
Ideas to Help You Adjust and Transition
1. Remind yourself — and your family members — that no family is perfect. Together, you can all work toward the goal of recreating the magic of the holidays in a new way. As long as there’s desire, love, and a united commitment, any holiday can be just as celebratory as it should be.
2. Parenting plans and scheduling issues: It is important to work with your child’s other parent to come up with a holiday schedule that works, while also providing the best experience for your child. Hopefully, your parenting plan already includes provisions for when and where the children will be at specific (holiday) times; if not, you’ll end up having to negotiate whose day, night, or weekend it is based on when the holiday falls.
3. The last thing you want is for your children’s memories of the holidays to be burned with images of mom and dad fighting over them. Creative co-parenting options include: having children spend “even” years (2016, 2018, etc.) with one parent on the actual holiday, and “odd” years (2017, 2019, etc.) with the other. Then, there may be more time spent with the parent on the year that he/she isn’t getting the actual holiday itself.
If you live close enough, perhaps your children can spend half the day with one parent and the rest of the day with the other. Compromise and creativity are crucial for getting through the holidays — and for keeping them enjoyable and fun for your children.
4. If your parenting schedule is such that you don’t get to spend a particular holiday with your children, try to create a different holiday experience for another day. For example, take your family on a Thanksgiving trip to Plimouth Plantation, or go out on a limb and have a big family and friends party on a rented Mayflower Movers van. Your creativity will result in Thanksgiving on the Mayflower!
If you won’t be spending the holiday with your children, don’t stay home wallowing in self-pity. Seize the opportunity to do something you never have time for — spend time doing some of your favorite things (that the children may not enjoy). Binge watch an entire season of a television show you’ve been dying to see, read a book that you haven’t had time for, or go visit a family member or friend you haven’t seen in a long time.
The bottom line: Don’t let separation or divorce ruin the holidays for you or your children. Do whatever you can to make it fun and enjoyable for them — as well as for yourself.