Divorce affects children in many ways. The feelings of loss that accompany a divorce are heightened around the holidays, when kids are forced to adjust to life with only one parent at a time. With the holiday season approaching, there’s potential for stress and conflict over visitation schedules, but it is important that you put your children first when making holiday arrangements.
First of all, make sure you and your ex-spouse are clear on the holiday visitation that was determined in your divorce decree. You may have one of the following situations:
Alternating holidays. Each parent is assigned “even” or “odd” years to spend certain holidays with their children.
Splitting each holiday. If parents live near each other, children might spend part of the day at mom’s house and the other part with dad.
Both parents spend the holiday together with their child. This works best if both parents are amiable with each other.
Beyond the Holiday Custody Arrangement
No matter what schedule you must follow, there are steps you can take as parents to ensure that the holidays go as smoothly as possible for you and your children.
Accept your parenting plan and make the best of it. Focus on the time you are spending with your children, rather than the time you won’t be spending together. Be flexible about when and how you will celebrate. Your family won’t be able to do things the way they used to, but be creative and make new traditions with your children. Trying to divide time between mom and dad on every holiday can be chaotic for kids, so come up with a plan that works and stick to it so that children have a sense of stability and know what to look forward to.
What’s important is what’s best for your children, so keep your own emotions in check. Make sure your children can enjoy the holidays without feeling “caught in the middle.” Never place your child in the position of having to choose between parents. Rather, you and the other parent should work out holiday schedules in a way that puts no pressure on your children.
When you and your children are celebrating together, make it a “conflict-free zone.” Don’t talk about the other parent, and avoid negativity and bad vibes. Don’t try to “one-up” the other parent by making gift-giving a competition. Conflict between parents makes children dread the holidays, but this time of year doesn’t have to be stressful if both parents can put the needs of their children first.