The holidays can be a joyous, magical time with young children, but, if you are facing the holidays as a divorced or single parent, you may be feeling more stressed than joyous. You can make the holidays better by prioritizing how your children feel and making the holidays a happy time for them. Even if you have a difficult co-parent, these tips will help you navigate the holidays and make them merrier for everyone involved.
Create a Plan for Holiday Parenting Time
If you and your co-parent always argue about who will have the children during the holidays, it’s best to plan ahead. Emotions may run high during holidays, so having a plan in place beforehand is a great way to minimize stress. A plan will help you know where your children will be, leaving you to enjoy the celebration without the strife.
A written parenting plan will ideally include holiday parenting time. Talk to your attorney if the holidays in your plan are not clear. If you and your ex-spouse don’t have a parenting plan that outlines holiday parenting time, you should confirm a holiday parenting schedule in writing via text or email. You should also try to keep your children updated with any plans for the holidays, so they know what to expect.
Arranging Vacation Dates
Holiday travel may feel like more of a hassle than a vacation when you’re trying to arrange the schedule with your co-parent. To minimize tension, make sure to arrange your vacation dates well in advance of travel and give your co-parent notice of your plans. It helps to iron out these details long before you’re dealing with the stress of packing and leaving town.
Parenting plans may also include provisions for arranging vacations, including how much notice must be given to the other party, if you must provide them with an itinerary, and who gets first choice on vacation time if there are conflicting plans. If you and your co-parent have a parenting plan and it includes a vacation provision, you should make sure that you both follow it.
Try to Keep the Peace
If you went through a contentious divorce or custody case, or you and your co-parent are not currently on good terms, it may be tempting to say negative things about them. Try to resist that urge, especially if the children are present. Keeping the peace may be difficult, but it will make the holidays happier for all involved. If your family members dislike your co-parent, ask them politely not to voice those feelings in front of the children. Your co-parent is someone your children love, and saying negative things about them will hurt your children’s feelings, put them in the middle of conflict, and force them to choose whether to defend their parent or stay silent during the holiday celebrations. Focusing on your children’s happiness will help you to keep the peace. The holidays are a time for celebration and joy, not bad-mouthing your co-parent around the dinner table.
Don’t Turn Gifts into Weapons
You may feel the need to buy expensive gifts to compete with your co-parent’s presents, but it’s best not to turn gifts into weapons for your children’s affection. You may want to upstage your co-parent in the gift-giving arena, but turning the holidays into a competition only opens you up to debt and hurt feelings. Try to focus on your children when selecting gifts – and not what your co-parent may be purchasing. It’s best to leave the competition for a board game or tag football with your family.
Focus on Your Children
Although the holidays may be stressful, taking a few small steps may make it better. Try to put aside hurt feelings and bitterness toward your co-parent and focus on making happy holiday memories for your children. You should also try to give your children an opportunity to talk about how the holidays are making them feel. Listen to your children and make them feel comfortable sharing their feelings. Let them know that they can vent if they need to.
Create New Ways to Celebrate
The holidays may make you feel melancholy, remembering how things used to be. You may also wish for a picture-perfect celebration. Let go of the past and focus on the future. Maybe start a new family tradition – whether it’s having Chinese takeout as a special treat, roasting marshmallows, or hosting a family game night. You can bond with your children by going on a run together, driving around and looking at lights, or volunteering to help those less fortunate. New traditions can be a great way to make new memories together.
Treat Yourself Too
You can celebrate the holidays and reward yourself for following this holiday survival guide by treating yourself to something special. Your life has likely changed dramatically since your divorce or custody case. Remember to prioritize your own happiness too. Maybe your way of relaxing is to soak in a hot bath, read a good book, or buy a special piece of clothing. Whatever it is, you deserve something special too.