7 Tips for Getting Your Kids Happily Through the Holidays After a Divorce
Dear April Masini,
I got divorced about 10 months ago and I am approaching my first holiday season without my wife. I have healed personally, but we have three children and I'm concerned about how the holidays will affect them as they are shuffled between my ex-wife's family and my own. What kinds of things do I need to keep in mind to make this a less painful and, maybe even pleasant, holiday for my kids? Please give me some relationship advice and some divorce tips that will make the holidays easier for everyone."
Sincerely, Divorced Dad
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Divorced Dad,
Transitions are difficult in normal times. Add the holidays into the mix -- where family chaos often abounds no matter what is going on - -and the period after a divorce can be difficult, especially for the children.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for dealing with the holidays this year:
- Abide by court ordered custody schedule. Don’t pick now to make a custody fight. If you don’t like the schedule work to change it after the holidays. Easier said than done, but this ain’t gonna be easy. It’s just going to be right.
- If you don't have a court ordered custody agreement yet, or at all, try to work one out that is best for the kids— and that means allowing them time with both parents. The time doesn’t have to be even to the minute or the hour or even the day. Some agreements allow a holiday with mom one year and dad another. Some agreements split the day. Some agreements allow Christmas Day with one parent, Christmas Eve with another, etc. Don’t be petty. Keep the broad strokes in mind. Each parent should celebrate and show love to the children at the holiday in some way that is relatively fair over the long run.
- Take your kids to buy their other parent a gift. Be a good person. No matter how bloody the battle between you and your ex, use the holidays to take your children out to the mall to buy the other parent a present from all of you. Even if you hate your ex, they are still the child’s parent, and if you hate the parent, the child will feel that you hate a part of them. Open your heart and stretch your own love to include people who are different from you — including your ex. You have no idea how good this will make your children feel.
- Do your best to work with your ex to make sure your children have appropriate clothes for the holidays at each parent's house. It’s remarkable how often the kids’ clothes become the object of fighting — does the kid have more clothes at mom’s house? dad’s house? who buys the clothes? why are clothes dad bought at mom’s house? Just make sure the child has clothes and shoe at the house he/she is supposed to be at when they are supposed to be there.
- Don't allow your family members to denigrate or pry the children about what goes on with the other parent or at the other parent's house.Practice kindness. Be sad about the divorce, but don’t be nasty, judgmental or blaming of the other parent in front of the children. Tell the child to give your love to their mom or dad. Your children will be relieved and feel relaxed if this happens. They will be tense and sickened if the opposite does.
- Don't bring a date to holiday parties if you have children unless you are engaged to be married and have a wedding date. You will send the wrong message to everyone. The children will have fewer tools to deal with the confusion than the adults. Meet your date later that night or the next day or weekend. If your date can’t handle that, get a new date. (Check out Date Out of Your League for tips.)
- Don't stress yourself out before/during the holidays. You need to be your strongest, most relaxed self during the holidays in order to support children going through stress — let alone yourself! Get enough sleep, good food, and set limits while being open with your heart. Don’t blame, gossip or do more than you can afford in any way.