Divorce and custody issues can make Christmas and other holidays stressful for parents. Children are very perceptive and will feel your stress. Here are some ways to lower your stress and survive the holidays:
1. Focus on new traditions. Christmas will never be the same as it was when you were married. Maybe that is a good thing. As I talked about in my Halloween post, focus on your favorite traditions and cut out the ones you went along with for your spouse. So, if you hated spending the day traveling to visit family members, skip it this year. Instead, do something you enjoy like spending the whole day baking cookies, sipping egg nog and listening to Christmas music. Never liked that fake tree, go cut down a real one.
2. Decide if you can handle spending some of the time together. Sometimes, even in contentious divorces, parents decide to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning together. If you can make it about the children and not be tense, have it. If you have doubts one or both of you will behave, it is best to divide the time.
3. Figure out the schedule ahead of time. Do not wait until Christmas Eve to decide who gets the kids when. If you both want Christmas Eve, try to figure out a compromise such as alternating who gets Christmas Eve each year. You can also work in other holidays. For example, you can agree that if you get Christmas Eve, your spouse gets Christmas Day and/or Easter Sunday. Be flexible, your children will thank you.
4. Coordinate gifts. It is not fair to your children if you both buy them the same thing. Worse yet, focusing on topping the other parent takes the spirit out of the holiday.
5. Talk to your kids, appropriately. Open, honest communication with children is best. However, keep it age appropriate and show a united front. If your daughter asks why you are not going to grandma’s house for Christmas Eve with the rest of the family, it is better to say, “Mommy and Daddy thought it would be better that Mommy and Daddy have separate celebrations this year,” than “because Daddy and Grandma are mad that I’m divorcing Daddy.”
No matter the situation, if you focus on what is best from the perspective of your children you will make the right decisions.
Here is to a stress-free holiday!