5 Holiday Tips for Divorced Parents
The approaching holidays bring feelings of fear and loathing for some divorced parents, as they must have more frequent interaction with their exes.
We all know those interactions can be tense, particularly when the reason for divorce was an especially painful one. But this is the time of year to think of your children’s feelings first and make every effort to get along and spare your children from being in the middle of a battle.
Here are five tips for successfully navigating the rigors of holiday visitations:
1. Plan ahead.
If there is no formal parenting plan in place, start making your plans now before the stresses of the holiday season strike. The same goes for requests to alter your parenting plan. Do you know you’re going to be on a work trip during your portion of Christmas break? Communicate that information now so see if you and your ex can work around it while there is plenty of time to plan.
2. Watch your words; you can’t unring the bell.
You may need to establish a cooling off period before responding to your ex. When communicating with each other, imagine your children are in on the conversation. What kind of example are you setting for them? Are you showing them how to rise above anger and pettiness and work through conflict in a mature fashion?
Children have an uncanny ability to hear statements and read texts that aren’t meant for them, so take care when choosing your words. Mind your reactions to your former spouse.
“You are accountable for raising your children, and it’s important to remember that your words and actions toward your ex can have a lasting impact on your children,” says San Diego divorce lawyer John Griffith.
Kids often take the blame for things that are beyond their control. “If I had cleaned my room, Mom would’ve been in a better mood before she talked to Dad today.” “If I hadn’t told Dad about Mom grounding me, he wouldn’t have called her that bad name when they argued last night.”
Minding what you say can help kids avoid taking ownership of problems that aren’t theirs to own.
3. Agree to a gift-giving plan.
Too often, divorced parents turn the holiday season into a contest of who can give the most. This is harmful to your kids; not just your budget. Discuss gift giving with your ex to avoid excess and duplication. Perhaps your gifts can complement each other. If your ex is buying the kids new iPads, perhaps you provide the cases and other accessories.
4. Help resistant children cope with spending the holidays elsewhere.
Dragging a screaming child to your ex-spouse’s car isn’t something you look forward to, so do what you can to avoid it. Reassure your child that he/she will have a great time, and that Mom/Dad is excited to have this time with them. Do what you can to help them understand that they’re not missing out on anything while they’re away from you; that you have fun things planned for them when they return.
You might also consider giving them something of yours to help comfort them while away. Maybe it’s a favorite pillow from home, an article of clothing, or a piece of jewelry. It just needs to be something that the child associates with positive feelings and memories.
5. If you’re the non-custodial parent, let your children invite friends over.
It can be lonely for a child to go to Mom’s or Dad’s house and be the only child among grown-ups, says Rabbi Barbara Aiello. Allowing the children to invite a friend over can enhance the visit.