The first and most important thing you can do is be kind to yourself and recognize that separation and divorce during the holidays is hard.
Tips For Co-Parenting After Divorce this Holiday Season
These tips are aimed at reducing the stress of co-parenting through the holidays and helping you be intentional and hopefully find some joy and comfort for your family this holiday season.
- Have a plan. Make sure you and your co-parent understand what your family’s goals are for the holidays, and how you want things to go. Are you going to share Christmas morning together? Divide your typical Chanukah traditions so that some happen at one parent’s home, and the rest with the other? Talk about your plan well in advance to avoid last-minute panic or conflict.
- Be clear. Once the plan is set, don’t be wishy washy. Be clear about your plan with the co-parent, and then let the kids know so that they have time to understand and wrap their minds around it. Make sure you are clear about what the boundaries are, which will depend on the kids’ ages and what circumstances are. If the holiday plans involve an aunt or grandfather, loop them in too.
- Set a meeting. It may be a good idea to have a pre-holiday meeting to discuss what everyone wants. While you will make the final decisions as co-parents, consider letting the kids have input and the opportunity to voice their questions or concerns. Is there one special thing they want to do, and can you make that happen? If you’ve always cut down a Christmas tree as a family, then maybe you still do that with one parent, and create a new tradition to do with the other. Find a way to incorporate a little bit of what everyone might want, if you can.
- Have a plan B. Perhaps you had planned to eat Christmas dinner together with both parents present, but as the day approaches your wishes change. It’s ok to build in some flexibility. Go easy on yourselves and be realistic with your expectations.
- Get the tough stuff out of the way. Are you going to see your mother-in-law for the first time post-divorce? Will there be extended family members present at a holiday event that will be hearing about the separation or divorce for the first time? Avoid awkward encounters by reaching out to friends and family ahead of time. Explain what’s going on and what you’ve communicated to your children to avoid difficult conversations and reduce stress the day of the family gathering.
When it comes to the holidays, we often get wrapped up in how it should be, and as a result put too much pressure on our families and ourselves. It’s ok if things aren’t perfect– especially if this is the first holiday since your separation or divorce. With a plan in place, you and your family can still enjoy the holidays and make new and positive memories.