Surviving the Holidays in a Post-Divorce World


You may have noticed that grocery and department stores are already placing Halloween and Christmas items on the shelves.  Whatever your reaction to this forcible entry into the holiday season, starting with Labor Day and followed by a string of others through January 1st, if you are a parent attempting to co-parent with an ex, the holidays may not be brimming with joy.  Co-parenting is hard, even in the best of times, but parties, events, family visits, travel, and celebrations surrounding specific dates will throw a curve ball into the best of intentions.  Here are some tips for keeping the fun in your holidays:


R.E.S.P.E.C.T., the Tina Turner Way:

One of the biggest areas of contention during the holidays are differing religious practices or interests.  Commonly, this arises after a separation when one or both parents become involved or increase their involvement in church, synagogue, community groups, or cultural celebrations.  While these may not have been a centerpiece of the holidays during the parents’ relationship, they may be now.  Accept that people change and that you must respect these new practices, whether you agree or not.  Instead of taking an oppositional position to these new experiences, try to embrace them as culturally enriching your child’s life experience.


Don’t Be A Grinch:

You have to set aside the past and work towards a peaceful future.  Be flexible, empathetic, and always seek to compromise.  Your starting point is your parenting plan and the court’s orders.  Hopefully, the holiday schedule is clearly written and understood.  If not, start early broaching the conversation for arranging pick ups and drop offs, scheduling special events, and accommodating each other’s family plans.  Be prepared to accept “no” for an answer.  Remember that you are making a request and that demands usually don’t get very far.  Be prepared to trade something that you want for something the other parent wants.  Finally, try to place yourself in the other parent’s shoes.  If you accommodate a request now, it will go a long way towards a request you will have later on down the road.


Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town – He Knows Your Parenting Plan:

When your child is with your co-parent on the calendar date of a holiday, be happy for your child and the co-parent.  The only person who hurts during that time is you.  I have never met a child who doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas twice, have two birthday celebrations, go caroling more than once, light the Menorah twice, exchange gifts on multiple days, eat turkey feasts more than once, or go to more than one Halloween party.  You knew when your relationship ended with your co-parent that it would mean major change in the future.  Your child did not make the choice to have two homes, so you and your co-parent have to let go of your subjective interests to focus on the child’s life experience away from your strife.  If that means allowing your co-parent to have Christmas Day, while you celebrate Christmas a week earlier or a week later, or maybe even on Christmas Eve, then so be it.  For younger children, it is as easy as explaining that Santa knows the parenting schedule and that gifts will be delivered to both homes for when the child will be there next or that they can wear their Halloween costume to a play date on their next visit.  Don’t focus on the calendar dates and instead focus on what is going to maximize your child’s joy through the holidays.  Your child will thank you for it later.

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