No matter how much time and effort you devote to helping your children cope with your divorce, the holidays will almost certainly bring a new wave of emotions. Splitting the holidays between two parents’ households is not easy—especially the first time around.
If you are preparing for the holidays as a newly-divorced parent, here are some tips you may be able to use to make sure the holidays are memorable for the right reasons and help ensure that you and your children are able to enjoy the holiday season as much as possible.
Tip #1: Put Your Children First
As you work through your holiday preparations, make a conscious effort to put your children first. What do your children like best about the holidays? What are some of their favorite traditions? Even if you already have some specific plans or ideas in mind, consider making some adjustments to make the holidays more enjoyable for your children.
Try to maximize the time you spend with your children as well. For example, if you can involve your children in your preparations (such as cooking or wrapping gifts for others), try to do so. If you only get a limited amount of time with your children during the holidays, try to take care of everything you need to do on your own in advance.
Tip #2: Try to Make Sure Your Children Have Realistic Expectations
Young children, in particular, are likely to have unrealistic expectations during the holidays. For example, some children will hope the holidays bring their parents back together when this simply isn’t possible. This is a delicate situation that must be handled as such (and not used as a time to bad-mouth the other parent). But, if you can help your children understand what they can (and can’t) expect, this may help the holidays go more smoothly.
Tip #3: Rely On Your Support Structure
Going through the holidays after a divorce can be difficult for everyone. If you are struggling with the holiday season yourself or finding it challenging to avoid reminders of the past, consider relying on your support structure. Most likely, you have friends and family members who would be more than happy to help. This is true whether you simply need to talk or you want to find somewhere new to celebrate the holidays post-divorce.
Tip #4: Start a New Tradition
Continuing old traditions can be particularly difficult for children when those traditions used to involve both parents. As a result, starting new traditions can be an effective way to help children enjoy the holidays and create positive memories after a divorce. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon your old traditions entirely; but, if you have old traditions you want to carry forward, consider adding new elements that will help your children live in the moment instead of focusing on the past.
Tip #5: Make Small Changes That Can Have a Big Impact
When it comes to modifying old traditions, even small changes can have a significant impact. For example, if you traditionally celebrate the holidays in your basement family room, consider moving your celebrations to the living room upstairs. But, again, the goal isn’t to have your children forget about the past, but rather to help them enjoy the present.
Tip #6: Monitor Your Children’s Emotions
Recognizing that the holidays can be challenging for children after a divorce, divorced parents should do their best to monitor their children’s emotions. There are several online resources where parents can learn about the signs of anxiety and depression in children, and there are resources for learning ways to talk with children about their emotions as well. Parents who have questions or concerns about their children’s emotional wellbeing should also consider speaking with a professional.
Tip #7: Take Advantage of Technology
Today, parents have plenty of options – including many free options – for using technology during the holiday, from looking up holiday craft ideas online to spending virtual time with loved ones. This doesn’t necessarily mean that parents and children should share hours of screen time, but parents should not hesitate to use the tools they have available if it will help make for a happier and more fulfilling holiday season.
Tip #8: Make Sure You Know Your Parenting Time Rights and Responsibilities
Before making their holiday plans, newly-divorced parents should make sure they have a clear understanding of their parenting time rights and responsibilities. Parenting plans and custody orders will often include special provisions for the holidays. If your parenting plan or custody order provides for additional visitation during the holidays or requires you to clear your holiday travel plans with your former spouse, this is something you need to know so that you can plan accordingly.
Tip #9: Work Out a Schedule and Plan in Advance
Speaking of planning, it is a good idea to work out a schedule and plan in advance to the extent that you can. Whether this means confirming transportation between residences or arranging to co-parent during the holidays, making sure you know what to expect will allow you to set your children’s expectations as well.
Tip #10: Do Your Best to Enjoy the Holidays Yourself
Most of the time, children know when their parents aren’t happy. So, to help make sure your children have the opportunity to enjoy the holidays, do your best to make sure you can enjoy the holidays as well.
If you are struggling, do not hesitate to seek help. Reach out to your friends and family members, and seek professional help as needed. But, don’t simply ignore your feelings.
Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. | A New Jersey Family Law Firm
Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. is a New Jersey family law firm that represents parents in divorce, custody, child support and other matters. If you have questions about your parental rights or responsibilities this holiday season, we invite you to call 877-435-6371 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.