As difficult as it may have been to reach an agreement with your ex regarding how to spend the holidays with your children after your divorce, your work as a parent to make sure your child’s holidays are happy is not finished.
In Part 1 of our 3-part series on holiday planning in divorce, we discussed the importance of putting your children first during the holidays. In Part 2, we focused on finding creative solutions to spending the holidays together that are available through the collaborative process. In this third and final part of the series, we share some thoughts on how to navigate the holidays after your divorce is final. Here are some helpful suggestions for handling the holidays with children post-divorce.
Handling the Holidays Post-Divorce
1. Flexible Thinking (to a Point)
Now that you are divorced and you and your ex are co-parenting your children, you need to be flexible in your holiday planning. This is especially true if you or your ex-spouse may already have new significant others in your lives and perhaps one of you has remarried. This means there are new family members to consider, which not only creates new logistics to navigate but also heightened emotions. The schedule that you and your ex-spouse agreed upon in your divorce when you only needed to consider the two of you and your kids may look different when new partners and their families are involved.
After the divorce is over, it remains critical that the kids are not put in the middle of any conflict or tension that arises between you and your ex. Even when you are doing your best to keep your child out of your conflict, it’s likely they can sense what is going on. Children are smart and intuitive, and they WILL pick up on the tension even when the parents are sure they are hiding it from them well.
The holiday parenting plan you created as part of your divorce agreement may need to be adjusted because it makes more sense for your kids to be with members of their new stepfamily for a special event. Try to always put their needs before yours. “Fake It Until You Make It” is a term that is applicable in this situation: while it may be annoying or even cause you to feel anger at the idea of having to change your previous plans or traditions, if a change makes your children’s holiday happier, the wise choice is to show support for that to your children. This doesn’t mean you completely sacrifice your own wishes. Instead, it means you are able to negotiate with your ex to make sure the children’s needs to be with both parents have been considered in relation to any changes you agree to.
2. Be Considerate of Your Child’s Love for Their Other Parent
This is really a gift to your children and a life lesson to them about treating others as they want to be treated. Never make the kids feel guilty about wanting to spend time with the other parent or buy gifts for him or her. Instead of letting yourself feel bitter or slighted when your children want to express their love for your ex or their new partner, help them show that love. Make it a big deal. Say, “Let’s go buy a gift for them!” Take your children to the store and let them know that you fully support their buying a gift that will help them express their love for the other loving adults in their lives. This tells your children that IT IS OK to love both parents and demonstrates that you and your ex are able to communicate and negotiate cordially despite being recently divorced. Even if you are still hurt or angry about the divorce, supporting your children in this way is a gift you’re giving to them for years to come. They are very likely to remember the kindness and compassion you showed during what must have been a very difficult and emotional time for you. This can set a positive tone for how they live their own lives.
The holidays can be stressful, and divorce makes it even more so. However, when you put the happiness of your children first, decision-making becomes a lot easier. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about? If you are recently divorced and are experiencing new challenges that have arisen since your divorce, the attorneys at Vacca Family Law Group are available to discuss creative and non-adversarial solutions that will work for you and your family for years to come. Contact us today for more information and to schedule your free introductory call.