The holiday season can be a time of merriment when celebrating with family and friends. Parents raising children in two homes, alternating time with the other parent may experience feelings of anxiousness or sadness during this time. Instead of grieving past family traditions, parents are encouraged to follow the following guidelines so that they might provide their children the best holiday experience ever.
1. Communicate directly and early with your co-parent
Send business-like emails to the other parent regarding plans for the holidays for example: dates/times of exchange, travel plans, and requests for changes to the schedule. There are fewer logistical disagreements when both parents are informed in plenty of time so they may firm up their plans with extended family members or with their work supervisor. Parents may need to discuss gift choices, what traditions are going to be relegated to whom, or new traditions that may be established. Interest based communication can set a positive tone for future compromising and joint decision-making.
2. Acknowledge that change can be good
Author Jay Asher wrote, “you can’t stop the future and you can’t rewind the past.” Embracing alternative holiday options doesn’t have to be viewed in a negative light. Parents are encouraged to talk with their children about ideas regarding alternative family traditions. Although divorce acts as a restructuring agent for families, children and their parents can create their own holiday customs for each home. It can be as simple as adding a family activity, engaging in a volunteer opportunity that assists others, or inviting those individuals who may not have friends or family nearby to their festivities.
3. Ask yourself which is more desirable… being kind or being right
A lot of stress is generated when parents try to exert power over the other to prove that he or she is right. Children are aware of how parents feel about each other even if nothing is said. Children look to adults as models for kind behavior. Parents must be mindful that words and actions have power and that parental behavior that promotes the emotional well being of their children is the gold standard. Parents provide a firm foundation for their children when they communicate in a way that fosters familial joining and harmony.
4. Stay in the moment
Parents are well served when stopping themselves from worrying about how much time is being missed when children are not in their care. Being present with children during their parenting time sends the message that they are priorities. Enjoy the squealing, laughter, and merriment. Children grow up soon enough. Paying attention to the little moments of childhood wonder and sweetness sends a child-centered message.
5. Keep it simple
Sometimes parents feel overwhelmed with all the activities that they are trying to squeeze in during the limited holiday time with their children. It does not hurt to cut out one activity per year. Attend the Nutcracker Suite performance every other year. Go see one light display instead of three. Don’t decorate every room in the house. Decorate with half the decorations.
6. Be flexible
Being rigid and inflexible will only bring on bad feelings. Use common sense and be open-minded to changes in the schedules. Children understand that they have two homes after divorce. For instance, if your parenting plan schedule does not coincide with beloved holiday festivities, consider an alternative venue, date/location (there are many holiday music concerts in which to choose). If your children want to return to the other parent’s home a day early, don’t take it personally.
7. Lower your expectations
Your house does not have to look like a perfectly curated Pinterest holiday post. You don’t have to win the ugly sweater contest at work. You can’t change the other parent’s behavior even if you would like to. Concentrate on changing what you can. Try to accept and celebrate what makes your family special and unique.
8. Allow your child to experience holiday joy in both homes
Affirm their joy by responding in a healthy, mature, and supportive way. When a child asks to purchase a gift for the other parent, ask the child what the other parent might like. Parents can promote the joy of giving. Allowing a child to put a framed holiday picture of their other parent on his/her desk sends a strong supportive message.
9. Ask yourself “What do I want my children to remember about the holidays as they were growing up?”
Most parents want their children to experience a season of hope and amazement during this time. Who wants to rob a child of this? Wise parents tend to believe that ideas such as understanding and compassion of the others including the other parent are not only terms of art but a way of life.