After the holidays have passed, many reflect on the family gatherings, traditions, and connections they recently experienced; but what happens when your family wasn’t exactly what you see on the Hallmark cards?
Of course the holidays are stressful for everyone, but for children of divorced or separated parents, the holidays for them are incredibly challenging. Despite this, divorced parents can ease the tension and maintain everyone’s (including one’s own) sanity to create future holiday memories for years to come. Each parent, even non-divorced parents, can create a positive situation out of a negative one when their ability to plan ahead exceeds the level of conflict between them. There are many ways divorced or separated parents can handle custody during the holidays, however, where parental conflict exists in many divorce cases, the courts will end up deciding how the children will spend their holidays, as opposed to the parents. So, before any decision is made, divorced parents need to consider if there is increased stress for their children, and promptly select a schedule that best suits their child.
Here’s our advised options for separated families:
Option 1: Alternate each holiday on an annual basis
Benefit: One parent may have certain holidays, and the other parent will have the same holidays in odd numbered years or vice versa
Drawback: Parent will have to face the disappointment of not being with his or her children every holiday each year
Option 2: Equally split the hours of the day on each holiday
Benefit: Both parents to have time with their children on each holiday annually
Drawback: Increasing the number and frequency of transitions for the kids as well as increasing the parents’ interactions
Option 3: Arrange a family dinner on the weekend immediately before or following the holiday
Benefit: Holiday meal the weekend prior or after event
Drawback: Must maintain a consistent level of flexibility and cooperation
Divorced families can enjoy holidays in the same way that intact families do, but let it be clear, do not try to be friends with your ex-spouse. If you can be friends, great, but for most divorcing or divorced parents it is better for their job, parenting, and co-parenting, if they treat each other like business partners. The more formal, structured, relatively un-involved, and governed by clear rules of polite and respectful behavior the better. Think of it as a business call: you don’t vent, disrespect, or call late at night. Make it easier for yourself and everyone will be happier knowing what to expect while avoiding conflict on the holidays. What better gift could a parent give?
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