Thanksgiving is coming up quickly and it signals the beginning of the whole holiday season. The holidays can be a rough time for divorced parents and their kids. This time of year comes with lots of traditions and expectations. And when you’re splitting your time with your kids with your ex, well, somehow the holidays aren’t quite as fun as they used to be.
So the important thing to remember about the holidays is that you need to think of your kids first… especially in the first few holiday seasons after you get divorced. Here are some tips for co-parenting during the holidays:
Plan ahead. Most kids handle new situations better when they know what to expect ahead of time. So it’s a good idea to have a holiday sharing plan in place long before the holidays actually come around. And once you have the plan figured out, don’t forget to share it with your kids. It won’t be good for anybody if the kids find out on Thanksgiving morning that they’re spending the whole weekend with Dad and they were expecting to be with Mom instead.
Make plans for yourself. There will be times throughout the holiday season when your kids are with your ex. Make sure you plan time with friends or family for yourself while your kids are gone. And show your kids a brave face. It’s okay to let them know you’ll miss them while they’re gone, but don’t let them think you’ll be miserable or alone. You don’t want to send your kids off to Christmas dinner with your ex feeling guilty that you’ll be all alone at home. Do everyone a favor and make plans for yourself too.
Avoid gift competition. We all want to give our kids everything. That’s part of being a parent. But giving gifts can quickly get out of hand, especially when we want to be remembered as the parent who gave the most or the best gifts. Instead of going crazy buying your kids toys they won’t even play with after a month, try focusing on giving them an experience instead. Get them concert tickets or zoo passes or amusement park tickets. You’ll create a great memory together instead of a pile of toys for the garage sale. And keep all thoughts about what your ex does regarding gifts to yourself. Just remind yourself it’s not a competition!
Make new traditions. One of the hardest parts of the holidays after divorce is the traditions. Do you continue traditions you once did as a family but without your ex? Do you start new traditions? I think the answer lies somewhere in between. You can nix every tradition you used to have just because you got divorced. Try mixing it up a little… you used to bake a certain type of Christmas cookie every year? This year, let your kids pick a new recipe. Pick a new tree farm or a new star for the top of the tree or new table decor for Thanksgiving. And don’t forget to create a few new traditions too.
Don’t overdo the holiday weekends. This one is hard. Now that there are two families spending time with the same kids on holiday weekends, there are suddenly double the activities. Make a plan with your ex ahead of time and try not to overschedule activities between the two households. It’s okay to spread holiday activities out over a couple of weekends. If you alternate holidays, you probably already do this anyway. It’s a good idea to keep kids from being overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough free time.