For most of us, the holiday season is full of decorating, shopping, baking, wrapping gifts and parties. While this can all be fun, we all know that it’s also stressful!
Then, there is the added pressure of parenting. School grading periods are ending and big projects are due. There are also holiday programs like band and choir concerts to attend.
For divorced parents, this is all in addition to figuring out how to divide your time and make it “the most wonderful time of the year” for your children. It’s common for all of this stress to lead to parenting conflict.
So, how are you and your ex supposed to handle the parenting conflict on top of everything else? Whether it’s your first holiday post-divorce, or you have been divorced for years, there can be tension and questions. Let’s talk about some things you can do to help make it a happy holiday season with minimal stress.
Figuring out the holiday schedule in advance can give you peace of mind. Look at the school calendar to see when the kids will be home and need all-day care. Also, review any events, parties, or get-togethers you already have committed to and create a schedule for the kids. Discuss with your ex when you would like to have the kids and when you will need help. You can then decide when and where the kids will be so you can prepare. This will also benefit your children as they will know their schedule and what events they will be attending.
Flexibility is critical to minimize parenting conflict, especially when children are involved. Remember that children want to spend time with both parents. If you aren't with your kids on the actual holiday, plan something when you will be. For example, if your ex has them on December 25th, plan a “Special Christmas” when you have them. There is no reason to give up anything, simply rearrange.
You should also ask yourself: What family traditions are most important to me? Keep those in mind as you negotiate who will be with the kids on which holiday. If you both have family traditions on the same day, consider dividing the day. For example, the kids have lunch with one parent and dinner with the other. You may find it helpful to alternate certain holidays each year.
Although you may have enjoyed making gingerbread houses and baking cookies with your in-laws, don’t be discouraged and think you must give that up. Now is a great time to start some brand-new traditions! Maybe you find new recipes or crafts to make with your kids. Start traditions that they will enjoy for years to come. Remember, you're in control now.
Recognize that it's a difficult time of year and take extra good care of yourself. Some people call this self-care. But that doesn’t always mean massages, manicures or pedicures. It can be as simple as eating well, exercising, and making sure you are getting adequate sleep. And don’t underestimate how therapeutic walking, reading or even a bath can be. All these things will put you in a better place to deal with the stress of the holidays.
We often think more about others than we do about ourselves during the holidays. However, if you are having a difficult time, do something nice for yourself. Going out to dinner with a friend or viewing holiday lights can help lift your spirits and help you better manage the holiday stress. Money can be tight during a divorce, but you don't have to spend lots of money to do something nice for yourself.
With all the changes you have going on in your life right now, it's easy to stay home and avoid family and friends. But resist the temptation. Reach out to people who care about you and will be supportive. Even if you don’t have your children, you can still enjoy the holidays and be in a festive spirit!
Remember, no parent is perfect and some parenting conflict is inevitable, so allow some grace for you and your ex as you work through the holiday season. Following a few simple rules when it comes to parenting your children can make a huge difference during this time of year. With some patience and practice, it can be a merry holiday season for all. And with the new year comes new hope and new opportunities to find peace and happiness in your life!
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