By Stacey Freeman
For adults, divorce often translates to living with less: a smaller home, a reduction of income, and less time spent with their children. For kids, divorce can create a much different scenario: two houses, two pets, and, of course, two holiday celebrations for every one. Many parents, in their effort to replicate or improve upon the way they spent holidays pre-divorce, overcompensate and, without realizing, lose sight of the holiday spirit in the process.
Children can quickly get swept up in adults’ vision of a post-divorce holiday filled with competitions for who’s getting prime holiday time and who’s giving what gift to whom. As a result, kids may come away feeling more anxious and less grateful than their parents anticipated. There is, however, something divorced moms and dads can do to ensure that everyone, including them, get what they want for the holidays. To honor the 12 days of Christmas, here’s 12 suggestions for co-parenting at holiday time.
You may be in the middle of a divorce or a decade past it. Regardless of where you are in the process, guaranteed you already have had a lot to think about as a result of the experience. You may have made mistakes. Better yet, you may have learned from your mistakes. Not to mention, what may have been a priority for you at one time may no longer be. As the holiday season begins, take a few moments to consider how you want the upcoming one to be different. Then go about making it happen, for you and your children.
Since you can only control your behavior and not your spouse’s, think long and hard about how you have been acting up to now. Be honest with yourself. Can you make any changes that will result in improved communication between you and your ex and a more harmonious relationship between the two of you? Can you be better parents in spite of your differences? Though you may be reluctant to do so, consider taking the high road and discontinuing any behavior that causes tension between you, at least for the time being. In other words, call a ceasefire.
Today is a new day, which means you can reinvent yourself any which way you choose, including as Mr. or Mrs. Let’s Make This Holiday a Happy One. Even if your ex carries on the same way he or she did before your reinvention, do it anyway. Why let your ex ruin your holiday and your children’s? Work with him or her as best you can.
Now that you have changed your mindset to a more positive one, you must give your ex time to follow. Chances are if you significantly have altered your attitude and behavior for the better, your ex will probably start wondering why and what your intentions are. He or she may even ask you, providing you with the perfect opportunity to explain how you want this holiday to be different from before. If your spouse remains suspicious, continue to behave in earnest. Teach by example.
One of the best ways to illustrate to your ex how eager you are to make this holiday season work is by coordinating your schedule with theirs. Ask what your ex’s plans are and discuss yours. Try to make arrangements that suit both of your lives as they are today. Respect your ex’s time as you do your own, even if your ex doesn’t always do the same for you. Be flexible.
If you made an arrangement with your ex, stick with it. Your ex will likely have made plans based on it, and the fastest way to upset the status quo is to make changes at the last minute or bail out altogether. Be dependable.
Holidays are about spending time with family, and now your children have two. That may translate to splitting the day. It also may mean celebrating on an alternate day during a particular year. Attempt to look at these scenarios as ways to share the day instead of how you are losing part of the day.
If the relationship allows, consider including your ex in your holiday celebration. If you don’t want to extend an invitation for the entire time, consider asking your ex to join you for a portion of it. That way no one feels left out entirely.
Most people won’t fault you if you cannot stand being in the same room as your ex. It happens. A lot. However, a little kindness can go a long way, and there is no better time than the holidays to put on a pleasant face, even if it’s to keep the peace temporarily. As the saying goes, fake it until you make it.
Focus on those outside your family. The holidays are the perfect time to show your children (and your ex) there is a world apart from their own. Source opportunities where you, your kids, and perhaps your ex alongside of you all can help those in need, making the holidays a community experience, too.
You won’t always get it right. Someone will get annoyed. Or frustrated. And that very well could be you. The key is not to get discouraged. The holidays are about love and family, no matter how many families are involved.
Listen to your kids. Listen to your ex. And most of all, listen to your heart. Then trust that it will guide you where you need to go this holiday season and throughout the coming year.
About the Author
Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC, a full-service consultancy dedicated to providing high-quality content to individuals and businesses. A respected voice for divorce issues affecting both women and men, Stacey has been published in The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Town & Country, The Huffington Post, xoJane, Scary Mommy, The Stir, MariaShriver.com, The Good Men Project, and various well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights on the divorce experience and has repeatedly been quoted in The Huffington Post’s divorce vertical. Stacey holds her B.A. in English, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University at Albany and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law. Email Stacey today at Stacey.Freeman@WriteOnTrackLLC.com or call 800-203-1946 for a free consultation and proposal. For more information, visit www.WriteOnTrackLLC.com.