Family Law Partner at Weinberg & Cooper, LLC in Hackensack, Bergen County, New Jersey
The first holiday after a divorce is finalized involving children can be the most emotional, difficult and trying for all involved. Holidays are already highly emotional events for many people. During the course of the divorce, it sometimes feels surreal: “Thanksgiving in odd years, the children will be with Mom,” and “Memorial Day in even years, the children will be with Dad.” But when the ink finally dries on the divorce agreement, the first holiday rolls around, it can feel all too real. It can cause stress for both the parents and the children (“But I want to wake up at your house on Christmas morning.”) It can cause feelings of loneliness. (“This is first Easter I haven’t spent with my in-laws.”) Regardless of which parent has the children for a holiday, I strongly believe we must consider the impact on the entire family. Divorced parents either fit into one of two categories: a) you either have your children for that holiday; or b) you don’t. Regardless of your parenting time schedule, there will come a time when the children are at your ex-spouse’s for a holiday, and vice versa. As a matrimonial attorney at a New Jersey divorce law firm, I often try to balance the emotions of all involved. Child psychologist, Dr. Allison L. Pope, Psy. D., confirms this and advises, “Holidays are often stressful for families. Add divorce into the mix, and holidays can become very challenging. It is a parent’s job to set a good example for their children by remaining positive, and re-assuring them that the holidays will be just as fun and meaningful as they always were.”
With The Children: On the first holiday since your split from the parent of your children, and they are with you this holiday, there are some basic guidelines I often suggest for my clients.
· Be kind. Think of what the other parent may be going through at this time. Think of what your children may be feeling. By being kind, you are showing your children the positive outcome of their newly found family dynamic.
· Be patient. For those whose children say they want to be with the other parent, be patient. Change is always hard for all involved.
· Be thankful. Enjoy your time with your children.
· Establish new traditions. Keeping in mind that saying goodbye to certain family traditions can be hard, try to make some new ones. This will give everyone something fresh and new to look forward to.
Without The Children: If this your first holiday since you were divorced, and your children are with your ex-spouse, there are also some guidelines I suggest for my clients in this situation:
· Be kind. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself. Spoil yourself. You deserve love too. Surround yourself with other family and friends. Remember, it will be your holiday soon.
· Be patient. Support the children. Tell them to have fun. Be patient in listening to them describe in earnest detail the fun and gifts they have received from their family. While potentially hurtful to hear, the unconditional support you demonstrate for your children will resonate with them, and your selfless acts have a powerful lasting effect on them.
· Be thankful: Your family dynamic may be different now. But you are still a family. Be thankful, not just for your children, but your family, your health, and the future ahead of you.
· Establish new traditions. If by yourself, doing something new. See friends. Travel somewhere. Try a new restaurant. Changing the scenery may ease the sting of not being with the children.
For more information on New Jersey family law, contact Ashley Tate Cooper, Esq. at Weinberg & Cooper, LLC.