Holidays and Divorce: Making Them Merry and Bright
School is in full swing, hurricane season is almost over, and it is time to start thinking about the fall and winter holidays. You will likely be very busy with school and extra-curricular activities and the last thing on your mind will be planning holiday celebrations and holiday timesharing with your ex.
It is possible to have enjoyable holidays during and after your divorce. The first step is to take a deep breath and realize that your holiday celebrations will be forever changed by your divorce and the only thing you can count on remaining the same is that things change. If you always spent Christmas Eve with his family, it is likely your children will continue to do so, but that you might have to find alternate plans if your ex-spouse does not invite you to celebrate as a family now that you are separated or divorced. Just because your holiday celebrations change does not mean you and your ex should argue and make the season miserable.
The important things to remember are:
Put your children’s feelings first. Children do not want to eat 2 Thanksgiving dinners. Splitting Thanksgiving so each parent can spend holiday time with the children is not a wise or healthy idea. Consider alternating Thanksgiving each year so your children have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with all of their family members on alternating years – another method of holiday timesharing. Children are obsessed with fair, and spending this year with Mom and next year with Dad satisfies their notion of “fair”. Your family has certain traditions that you want to continue sharing with your children. But don’t forget, so does your spouse and his or her family. If your family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, look at the calendar and coordinate days now rather than waiting until mid-December to realize that his big family Hanukkah celebration is the same night as your big family Christmas celebration. These issues can be dealt with early by telling your family members what days you have the children and ask them to plan around your schedule.
Coordinate gift giving with your ex for holiday timesharing. If you plan to give your 8 year-old the shiny new bike he has been asking for, discuss it with your spouse first. He or she may have also planned to give the same shiny new bike. You can coordinate the gift giving and have Santa give the gift while you and your ex share the cost, or you can each agree to give your children different items so there are no duplicate gifts and disappointments on Christmas morning or during Hanukkah.
Invite your ex to celebrate the holidays with you. The first holiday season after the split is challenging and anxiety-causing for both the recently split parents and their children. Celebrating the holidays with your ex present will eliminate the need for double celebrations, and the children will be happier celebrating the same holiday traditions in the midst of a messy divorce. Further, it is healthier for your children to see you and your ex working together to make things better and more comfortable for them. You and he may not like each other, but you can certainly spend 2-3 hours together to celebrate an important holiday tradition for your children without arguing or fighting.
Help your children make or buy a gift for your ex. Children love giving gifts and they want to take part in the gift-giving tradition. Make sure to take them shopping to purchase a gift for your ex-spouse before their holiday celebration. If you don’t, your child will feel anxious and shamed that they do not have a gift for their other parent. If you cannot afford to purchase a gift, spend time with your child making a gift that your child can give to the other parent. You will benefit from the quality time spent with your child and your child will always remember that you were willing to help them make their gift instead of being angry about the request for help.
Be flexible. If you are already divorced, you probably have a detailed parenting plan that includes a holiday timesharing schedule. If your ex plans to take your children to Grandma’s house for part of the Winter Break and he needs a few extra days for travel, offer them in exchange for a few extra days next Winter Break or in exchange for an extra weekend. Your children will remember that you put their happiness before your holiday timesharing schedule, and you will be the hero. If you are the parent that needs accommodation in the schedule, ask before you purchase a ticket or make any large expenditures. If your ex-spouse says no, you do not want to tell your children you cannot do what you planned to do because your ex-spouse said no. Doing so unfairly villainizes your ex to the children. If you do not have a holiday timesharing schedule in place, you are in unchartered waters. There are no hard and fast rules to follow, but you should be considerate of your children’s feelings. They may not want to travel this holiday season and in exchange want to stay home so they can spend time with both you and your ex. If that is what they are telling you, listen to them. If you really want to travel to see your family, then consider allowing your children to celebrate this holiday with your ex and bargain for celebrating with the children next year.
If you remember these few important tips, you can have cheerful, fun and happy holiday season. If you have more questions about holiday timesharing with your children because you are considering a divorce or in the midst of a divorce, you can call Angela R. Neave at Fixel Neave, P.A., at (954) 981-2200 for a free consultation.