As the holidays approach, we gird ourselves for the joys and challenges that they bring. For some of us, this could be the first year as a solo parent, for others it could be another holiday faced with the dreaded issue of how to deal with your ex. Whichever situation you find yourself in this year, here are some tips to ease the pain and bring more joy to you and yours.
- Plan Ahead for a Peaceful Holiday – While it may not be an ideal situation for you or your ex, the best thing you can do for your children is to let them spend an entire day with one parent and the next with the other. Many families alternate every-other holiday. One year one parent will have the children all day Christmas day, and the next year vice-versa. It can be worked out as an even and odd schedule. One gets the kids on the even years and the other parent on the odd. If you find yourselves fighting over who will get the first year, or about this type of arrangement, have a judge or mediator settle it. Do NOT involve your children.
- Keep Your Word – If you’ve agreed to a schedule, drop the kids off at the allotted time. Don’t show up late. You’re only going to hurt the children and yourself in the end if you don’t stick to a schedule.
- Stay Connected – While you don’t want to overstep any boundaries, it’s okay to call your child on the holiday and wish him/her a happy holiday. You could even consider celebrating with your child the day before. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard a child complain about getting presents or celebrating early. Have fun and create something special for them.
- Allow the Children to Keep in Touch – If you’re the parent who has the children for the holiday, make sure they call their other parent. They need to know it’s okay for them to wish the other parent well on a holiday. Be sure not to schedule gift exchange during the phone call. Be fair to your ex and your child no matter how much you might be tempted to do otherwise. According to attorney Anne Mitchell, author of They’re Your Kids Too : “What children need to hear is that it’s okay to still love their other parent, and to have a relationship with the other parent. Children need to be encouraged, to love and communicate with both parents, and they need to feel that one parent will not feel hurt or betrayed if they also love and have a relationship with the other parent.” It could even be nice to facilitate a card or a gift on your child’s behalf. Bottom line, take the high road.
- Coordinate Gifts – This may not be an easy feat with your ex-spouse, but if possible, try to speak with one another about any gifts you plan to buy. If your ex tells you he/she is buying a Xbox for your child, refrain from running out and buying one. The holidays aren’t a time for a competition. If your ex chooses not to play nicely, then you’ve got free range – just keep your opinions of your ex to yourself. Remember the adage, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
- Ask Your Child’s Advice – Your child might have some ideas on how he/she would like to spend the holiday. Now that your family dynamic has changed, ask your child what would make them happy. You could start a new tradition of your own.
- Seek Support – If this is your first holiday as a divorced or separated spouse, seek the comfort of family and friends while your child/children are with your ex. You might feel sad or lonely, but it will pass.
We want to create fond memories for our kids. And those memories are in our hands– let’s do the best we can to create a peaceful environment for the holiday season.