Christmas trees. Christmas presents. Christmas custody?
When a couple with children are no longer together, the couple has to decide who will have the children during the holidays. There are some who may celebrate the holidays together in hopes of creating a peaceful holiday for the children.
There are others, like me, who are not in a true co-parenting relationship.
This marks the first year where Tween Girl will not be waking up in our house on Christmas morning. In fact, she will be spending the entire week with her dad.
This is new territory for us. Sure, during past Christmas breaks, she has spent Christmas afternoon with her dad. And, yes, she spent an entire summer month with her dad. But this time it's the entire Christmas week.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau via CNN, there are an estimated four million divorced parents in the United States. Based on those numbers, many have experience in coordinating Christmas custody.
Christmas is already stressful enough without having to deal with not having your kid around. Sure, there are those moments when you beg for five seconds of peace without hearing your name chanted over and over ...
But then there are those moments when you catch a break, when your ex has the children.
Those type moments may not come around too often, so, I'm offering you a set of commandments to follow so that you can have a sound mind and actually enjoy Christmas. These are commandments that I have used in my seven years of sharing custody during the holidays. Some are easier said than done, but I noticed that as I trudged through them, sometimes through tears, I felt better about myself as a person, a parent and an ex.
And, yes, there are only 8. I cannot out shine God, so here are my 8:
Thou shall not call your ex every second of Christmas day
Don't be weird! Let the non custodial parent have this time with your child. Call one time to wish your child a Merry Christmas. This lets your child know that you are thinking of them, miss them and can't wait to celebrate Christmas all over again with them once they return.
Thou shall not feel guilty
Many divorced parents feel guilty, especially during the holidays. Ditch the guilt; it gets in the way of having a great and positive relationship with your kid.
Thou shall not sit around and sulk
Stop it. You are wasting time! Tis the season, get on with the holiday cheer. Trust me, your kid is not sulking, so why should you? Enjoy the season.
Thou shall enjoy your time
I am sure you've uttered the words, "If I could only get some free time." Well, here's your chance! Use this time to refuel. This is time for you to nurture yourself. Just think, you could read that book you just unwrapped on Christmas morning. Or lay in bed and watch the constant stream of A Christmas Story. The possibilities are endless!
Thou shall feel whatever emotions thou art feeling
Feel your feelings, just not in front of the child. There are a range of emotions you may feel leading up to the time your time leaves to certain feelings upon their return. This is okay because bottling your feelings could do more harm than good.
Thou shall reassure the child
Some children may feel uneasy about actually enjoying their time with the non custodial family. Some may feel as if they are choosing sides and leaving the custodial parent alone. Reassure the child that you will be just fine, even if you have to fake it. Children should not have to feel the heavy burden of guilt.
Thou shall celebrate Christmas twice in one month
Twice is nice! Once your child returns, have Christmas all over again by letting them unwrap the presents Santa dropped off. This could be a great way for the child to transition back home.
Speaking of transition ...
Thou shall be ready for the kid to have an attitude once they return
Just as we parents feel a range of emotions with Christmas custody, kids may experience emotions once it's time to return home. Kids can be torn between wanting to stay with both parents. They, sometimes, aren't able to express themselves and can act out. Take this into consideration when they display certain outbursts or "lash out episodes" once they return home. By then, you should be refueled and ready to take on the world!
Christmas only happens once a year. Remember, your child needs you just as much as they need their non custodial parent. I know that every situation is different and you as the custodial parent must do what is right for the child.
How will you celebrate Christmas without your kids? For those who aren't in this situation, how will you celebrate your Christmas with your kids?