The holidays can be one of the most difficult times for parents and children following separation and divorce. Getting used to splitting holidays can cause some turmoil for both the child(ren) and parents of separated families. These are tough waters to navigate, especially if the separation was recent, or if this is the first holiday season with the parents in separate homes.
Communicate Early About the Holiday Schedule
First, it is important for parents to communicate early about the holiday schedule. This may not come easily if the separation has not been amicable, or if there is not a custody order in place which dictates the holiday custody schedule. But, in order to avoid added stress for everyone, especially the child(ren), during the holidays, communication between parents is the only way make sure that everyone is clear about the times the child(ren) will be at each home, and how and when exchanges will take place.
Consider How Family Traditions Will Be Handled
When communicating about the holiday schedule, it is important to keep in mind family traditions, and also communicate about how those traditions will be handled. Some families may decide to participate in traditions together, in order to maintain some sense of normalcy for the children. However, in some situations, the animosity between the parents may prevent them from being able to spend time with each other without letting that animosity impact their interactions in the presence of the children. These families may choose to split up the traditions, allowing each parent to continue the certain traditions separately, and ensuring the child(ren) still get to do the things they were used to doing before their parents separated.
Taking Travel into Account
Another issue that can make the holidays difficult is travel. Many families have relatives that live out of town, or out of state, and you may be used to traveling for holiday visits. When splitting holidays, it becomes difficult to plan holiday travel, on both sides. If this is an issue for your family, you should talk to your out of town relatives and explain your new situation. Perhaps try to arrange having people travel to you, at least for the first year, or until you and the other parent can come up with a compromise. Another option is to travel before or after the actual holiday, to celebrate with extended family. Remember, the holiday is just a date on a calendar. Children will follow your example when celebrating the holiday. So, if you celebrate a week early, or a day late, then the children will celebrate with you.
Put the Children First
It is important to remember, always, but especially during the holiday season, that even though you and the other parent are not together, you are still a ‘family’ for your child(ren). The holidays, for children, are about celebrating with their family, and enjoying caring on traditions. So, for the holiday season, the most important thing to keep in mind when navigating issues that may arise, is to put aside any anger you have toward the other parent, and remember that you both love your child(ren) more than you dislike the other parent. Put the children first, and make the holidays a joyful time of year for them despite the new family dynamic and structure.