The holidays for children are some of the most exciting times of the year, except for those of newly divorced families. The expectations of how it has always been may be hard to let go of. However, it does not have to be the case. In fact, the holidays can still be free of chaos, hostility, and awkwardness. There are many things that newly transitioned parents can do to secure a joyful holiday season with their children. Here are a few tips to help divorced parents ensure they, and their children, have a good holiday together in this newly formed family unit…
Manage Your feelings: Learn to coexist with each other for the sake of your child. Follow the parenting plan that has been put in place to ensure each parent gets the time they deserve with the children for a smooth transition. Manage your temptation to share any feelings about the former spouse that could make it difficult for the children when transitioning over to the other household. Do not project your feelings onto the children or make them feel guilty. Rather, create support, and encourage healthy relationships on both sides. Remind your children that you will be fine while they are not with you. This is not about you, it is about them.
Don’t make it a competition: As a part of managing your feelings, it is important to remember that this is not a competition. It is not a time to show your children that you are better than your ex. This is a time to bond with your children and offer them the things you are best at. We all have something to offer our children and should never downplay what the other brings to their unique relationship that has been created with each child.
Communicate and coordinate: When you and your former spouse had children, it became the tie that binds you for life. You may no longer be living together, but you will need to communicate and coordinate care with each other regarding the children. The holidays are an important time of year for children, and this is a great opportunity to begin healing whatever remaining relationship wounds still exist and move on to ensure the children are getting their needs met. Communicating with each other about holiday plans will help your two households collaborate this season.
Get in the spirit: Getting in the holiday spirit helps to promote healing, wellness, and starts the beginning of making new memories. Promote decorating the house inside and out with your family’s traditional decorations. Come up with ideas for food and baked goods that can be made together, and even play your favorite holiday music to get you all in the holiday spirit in each household. When both households engage in this, the children will feel part of the tradition, no matter which household they are in.
Create new traditions: So dad was always the one who hung the lights on the house each year and mom was always the one who baked gingerbread cookies with the children. Now it is time to help the children see that while these traditional roles may be no longer in the other person’s household, it doesn’t mean that roles cannot change or that new traditions cannot be made. Talk with your children, and come up with new traditions within your household to create. They will enjoy being part of the process.
The holidays for divorced families can be the same as they are for intact families when the right feelings are managed, effort is made, and intent is put into it. Try to embrace the spirit of the holiday season, and be thankful for what you have, rather than focusing on the anger you still feel or on what you don’t have.