Although the thought of the post-divorce holidays can make you feel like crawling under the covers with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and coming out when the holidays are over, it is very important for your children’s sake to make it work. You will find that it is well worth the effort to make Christmas a happy time for your children and establish new traditions to reflect your changing family.
Sharing the holidays with your ex-spouse is not easy. Arranging the schedule so that not only both parents, but also extended family, have time with your child can seem an insurmountable task, particularly if your communication with your ex has been difficult during your divorce.
Here’s some TIPS for having an awesome holiday post-divorce:
Establish a Schedule in Advance of the Holidays
Sit with your ex and discuss the specifics of the holiday, calendar in hand. Make sure you make note of school performances, relatives visiting and special parties that your child should attend. Work together to make sure your child has quality time with both parents, siblings, and extended family during this special time. If you run into trouble reaching an agreement, you can hire a family mediator to help you work out the details for a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney to pursue the issues in Court.
Create NEW Christmas Traditions
The reality of the holidays after a divorce is that you will not (unless agreed to by both parents) get to spend time with your child each and every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Once you accept that, it is easier to create new, special traditions for those years when you are apart. One family celebrates Christmas- complete with turkey, stockings and Santa the week before. Another chooses to make New Year’s a special family party and exchange gifts then. Another selfless mama allows her kids to go with her husbands large family to celebrate all holidays so they can experience the joy of a large family and all their cousins. Be creative and think of things you can do that will mark the holiday in a special, albeit different way. Magic an be made on any day- not just December 25th!
It’s too easy for the holidays to become a challenge, to see which parent can buy the most stuff, the best stuff, or the most expensive stuff. You and the other parent have to make sure this doesn’t happen to you and your child. Setting up a competition like that takes the focus of the holiday away from your child and spending time together, and instead, places it on your feelings of inadequacy.
You and your ex can meet for coffee and talk about what your child wants or would like as gifts, and divide up the list, so you’re not duplicating each other and know what the other is buying. If you have a hard time sitting down and talking in person, do it by email. Make sure you agree neither of you will spill the beans about what the other is buying (it’s not unheard of for parents to try to hurt each other in this way). Also, don’t take this information and then go buy more and better things than your ex is buying.
Make sure you set a spending limit. If one parent buys your child a puppy, and big-screen TV and the other buys a few toys, feelings are likely to be hurt because there is going to be an obvious disparity.
Focus on the reason for the holidays….LOVE
Christmas really isn’t about gifts or the trimmings. It’s about LOVE. Try to focus yourself and your child on this fact. Use your time with your child to make memories and give back to your community. Spend time together doing holiday things, such as crafts, going to services, visiting Santa, going to a concert, decorating your home, baking, watching Christmas specials. Volunteer together at the food bank or “adopt” a family for the holidays and have fun filling their wish lists. Allow your child to love the other parent. Take him shopping to buy a small gift to give the other parent and let him wrap it himself.
When your child is grown up, she is not going to remember who gave her the most gifts or where she spent Christmas Eve 2014. She will remember the feelings she had around Christmas time. It’s in your power to make sure that what your child remembers most about Christmas-time isn’t the stress of sharing a holiday, but the love her family shares, even if it all looks a little different this year.
Awesome ain’t easy, but a stress-free Christmas filled with memories of love is the most priceless gift you and your ex can give give your child.
WE wish you and your family a blessed and peaceful Christmas and a fresh start in the New Year.
Kim and Marie