If you are recently separated or divorced, the thought of the holiday season can feel overwhelming and can be a daunting subject to approach with your estranged partner.
From adjusting to a new holiday schedule, incorporating new traditions, juggling travel plans, and balancing newly blended families, it is no surprise that high levels of stress and conflict often arise this time of year. While there may be no perfect set of steps to follow in order to avoid stress and conflict, as every family is unique, there are several helpful tips you can use to ensure that the holiday season remains a positive one for you and your family.
Plan. Planning, let alone agreeing, to a holiday schedule can be a difficult, tedious task for any family. But by planning your family’s holiday schedule in advance, you will know when your children will be with you and when they will be with your estranged partner, thereby reducing the risk of unexpected surprises. Advanced planning for the holidays will allow you, your estranged partner, and your kids to better prepare and enjoy the time spent together rather than trying to accommodate last-minute schedule changes.
Flexibility. Most people have a favorite part or activity associated with the holidays. This means that when adjusting to spending the holidays in two or more households, there will have to be compromise. It is important to have an open mind with respect to alternating schedules each year, as well as accommodating potential travel and/or activity plans.
Communication. Communication plays a significant role in any successful co-parenting regime, especially during the holidays. Always engage in open and honest communication, keep all discussions positive and solution-focused, respond in a timely manner, and, if possible, try to have all communication in writing to avoid misunderstandings.
Discuss gifts. Avoid engaging in gift competition with your estranged partner, as this will only serve to increase conflict. Discuss your children’s gifts beforehand. Set a budget, decide what gifts are appropriate and whether you are giving joint gifts or not.
New holiday traditions. Everyone in the family, including you, is in the process of adjusting to a new normal. Why not cease this opportunity and create new holiday traditions together? This helps everyone, especially the kids, move forward in a positive direction rather than focusing their energy on negative emotions that may be associated with your separation or divorce.
Reward yourself. Adjusting to this new chapter in your life can be a difficult, emotional process. Take a moment to reflect on the progress you have made and reward yourself with something you enjoy doing in your spare time, like reading a good book, meditating, enjoying the occasional glass of wine, etc. It is important for you to recognize and reward yourself for the steps you’ve made to date.
Your children come first. The most important tip is that your children come first! The holiday season is about ensuring your kids enjoy their time with both parents, regardless of the situation. Always leave your children out of any conflict associated with the separation or divorce, listen to what suggestions your children may have about scheduling the holiday season, and above all, let your children know that you are there to support them during this new adjustment.
The holidays are meant to be an enjoyable time of year, creating new memories with your loved ones. While it may seem difficult, try and follow these tips to make the most out of your holiday season!
If you have questions regarding parenting over the holiday season, contact Wells Family Law for a free consultation. Happy Holidays!
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