Contrary to a popular song frequently heard during the holiday season, Christmas may not be the happiest time of the year for divorced parents and their children. While movies and even greeting card advertisements focus on families being together to celebrate the holidays, this generally is not the way it works for a family divided by divorce.
Parents struggle with balancing the interests of their children while they both want to spend time holiday time with them. This is true whether the holiday is Christmas, Kwanza or Chanukah, all of which are celebrated during December this year. Then, there is New Year’s falling closely behind. Although it will likely never be easy, there are a few things you and the other parent can do to make the holiday celebrations fun and less stressful for your children.
- Plan ahead for time. Have discussions with the children and the other parent and plan for when the children will be with each parent. Acknowledge with your children that things have changed and there is now a new way of doing things. Emphasize the positive parts of the plan. Be sure the plan is in keeping with your court order regarding holiday visitation.
- Plan ahead for gifts. Discuss with the other parent gift-giving to the children. Avoid duplication and competition with each other. Also, help the children choose or make a gift for the other parent.
- Compromise. If one parent wants to take the children on a holiday trip and the other wants to have the children on the specific holiday day, compromise. One parent could spend the actual holiday with the children and the one who takes the children on a vacation trip could arrange to leave the day after.
- Begin new traditions, but incorporate past ones when possible. You may still enjoy sitting by the fireplace and reading holiday stories or watching a holiday movie. Add something new like making a holiday dinner on a day other than the actual holiday.
- Relieve your children of guilt and acknowledge their disappointment. Children have conflicting emotions during the holiday season. They may feel guilty when they are having fun without one parent, or disappointed when they would prefer to be with the other parent. Let them know these feelings are normal. Also, be sure they know that you miss them, but encourage them to have fun even when they are not with you.