If you have separated or divorced recently, you might be dreading the festive season. The first time you approach this time of year as separated parents can often be the hardest. Here are some tips that can help you navigate the holidays:
Make it About the Kids Not Your Separation
Take time to think about how the holidays play out for your children. When you and your co-parent were together, you likely had festive traditions that you celebrated with both of your families. Try to avoid being rigid about the activities that you choose to participate in or want your children to participate in based on who is hosting the event. Instead, focus on events that you know your children will enjoy.
Next, although it’s a natural instinct to go overboard with lavish or an excessive number of gifts to soothe a child in transition, try to resist this urge. In the best of worlds, you and your co-parent will communicate and agree upon the kinds of gifts that you are buying for your children, either separately or together. If you are not able to communicate with your co-parent at that level yet, try to avoid spending in a way that you can’t sustain in future years. If finances are tight (and they typically are after a separation!), focus on providing your children with experiences rather than gifts. Plan activities that you know your kids love.
Holiday Traditions After Divorce
Create new traditions. It is rare for any family to celebrate the holidays in exactly the same way year after year. Families change over time, as do the ways we celebrate our holidays. Explain to your children that you are starting a new holiday tradition and involve them in planning how that will look.
You will need to involve your extended family members in planning your holiday events. Everyone needs to show flexibility to ensure that important family traditions are maintained. Often people will get stuck on celebrating an event at a specific time, which can often lead to conflict when both parents want the same date. Change the focus of the event to its primary purpose — we get together to celebrate the holidays to enjoy ourselves as a family. Keep in mind that it is not the specific date that is important, it is the getting together with loved ones.
Be Kind to Yourself
Celebrating the holidays without your children is hard. You need to be kind to yourself during this period. Know that with each passing year, it will get easier.
Plan activities for yourself when your children are away from you during the holidays. Ease the longing to be with your kids by planning to get together with friends and family during those times. Choosing physical activities can be an effective way to deal with the inevitable feelings of loneliness or stress you may experience while the children are with their other parent.
Successfully navigating the festive season requires planning and a shift in mindset from what it has been in the past to what it can be in the future. Focusing on the holidays from your children’s perspective can be the best gift you can give them — a festive season free from parents locked in conflict.
By Greg Evans
The lawyers at Evans Family Law all have specialized training to provide legal services using the collaborative family law process. If you want to find out more, we’d be happy to talk with you. Contact us today.