We are quickly approaching the holiday season–leaving behind back-to-school and Halloween and gearing-up for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Preparing for the holidays can be an extremely exciting time for the kiddos but can also be an overwhelmingly stressful time for those kids in divorced and blended families. Where will they be for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve? Will they be able to go to grandma’s house? Will they be able to spend time with both parents? I’ve learned a lot about co-parenting over the last nine years that I think can be especially valuable during the holiday season. It’s important to remember several key things so the kids can enjoy the holidays stress-free with only the positive memories they deserve.
- Start Planning Early. Get the details sorted out before the going gets tough. Even though they don’t always voice their questions, the kids want to know that everything is planned. Figure it all out, and give the kids plenty of notice so they can feel settled that a plan is in motion.
- Keep The Kids Away From the Planning. Unless both parents are on-board with letting the kids make choices regarding the holiday plans, don’t allow them to be in the conversation. It’s not fair to make them a part of a process in which they have no control. Don’t include the kids in adult decisions.
- Put A Smile On. As adults, we always have to put the kids’ interests first, regardless of how that makes us feel. If you’re bummed because you don’t have the kids on Christmas morning this year…put a smile on anyway, and don’t fake it—they’ll know. The kids shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about spending time with their other parent. Make an effort to find peace in activities that don’t include the kids for the years without them around as much.
- Be Patient. It’s going to take time to get into a holiday pattern that works for everyone. Lower your expectations in the beginning, and work through it. After a few years, it’ll become second nature, and the kids will learn the holiday routine of making quality time with both households.
- Create New Traditions. Make lemonade out of lemons and task the kids with creating new traditions at each household. Instead of dwelling on lost traditions, let them come up with exciting new activities to create wonderful and lasting memories that don’t focus on the divorce of their parents.
The holidays will be fun again; it’ll just take time and planning. Reassure the kids that it will all be fine—even if you’re not completely feeling that way. When you or the kids begin to feel frustrated (especially in the first few years of change), remember to keep sight of what the holidays are truly about. Take a minute…Breathe and Relax…that should allow the focus to return to love, hope, magic, gratitude, joy, and peace.
Karen B. Tisdale, Board of Directors, Child Advocacy Center, Fayetteville, NC