Part 1 of our 3 part series on holiday planning during divorce focused on putting your children first. In Part 2, we focused on creative solutions to celebrate the holidays that are available through the collaborative process. Here in Part 3, we have some thoughts on putting your children first during the holidays after your divorce is final.
You may have come to a final written settlement agreement with your ex-spouse and maybe you’re already officially divorced, but your work as a parent to make sure your child’s holidays are happy is not finished. Here are some helpful suggestions for handling the holidays post-divorce.
Handling The Holidays Post-Divorce
1. Flexible Thinking (to a point)
You need to be flexible about and around the holidays: you or your ex-spouse may already have new significant others in your lives and perhaps one of you has remarried. This means there will be new family members to consider. The schedule that you and your ex-spouse agreed upon when you only needed to consider the two of you and your kids may look different when there are new spouses and their families involved. After the divorce is over, it remains critical that the kids are not put in the middle of any ongoing conflict or tension that you may think is invisible but that the children can feel. Children are so smart and intuitive—they WILL pick up on the tension even when the parents are sure they are keeping it from them. This may mean that there are new family traditions and events that your children can be part of if you are willing to be accommodating and flexible. What you thought was going to happen over the holidays may now look different 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 totally sacrifice your wishes. Instead, it means you negotiate with your ex to make sure the children’s needs to be with you as well as their other parent has been considered in relation to any change 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, help them show that love. Make it a big deal. Say, “Let’s go buy a gift for [Mom or Dad]!” Take them to the store and let them know that you fully support them buying a gift that will help them express their love for the other parent. This tells your children that IT IS OK to love both parents. 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 at what must have been a difficult time for you. This can set a positive tone for how they live their own lives.
The holidays will always be stressful. Divorce makes it even more so. However, when you put the needs of the children first, decision-making becomes a lot easier. If you want to discuss how to adapt to changes that have arisen since your divorce, contact the attorneys at Vacca Family Law Group to discuss creative and non-adversarial solutions.