The holidays can be especially tough when you see images of seemingly perfect families all over television – from commercials to classic Christmas movies – and yours definitely isn’t that. Divorcing parents often don’t know how to make their children’s holidays special despite their changing family circumstances.
It’s easy for separated or newly divorced parents to try too hard. Often, that turns into a competition, which only further strains the co-parenting relationship and upsets the children.
Negotiating parenting time and gift-giving
Time and gifts are two things that often put co-parents at odds over the holidays. It’s best to work out any conflicts away from the kids and then present a united front, whether you got what you wanted or not.
It’s important to include the holidays and the time off school around them in your custody agreement. If you haven’t finalized that yet, you’ll still need to work out an arrangement for this year. Ideally, you can find a way to have your kids for a portion of the holidays. Often, part of co-parenting is learning to celebrate holidays whenever you’re together, whether it’s on the holiday or not.
Gifts often become a source of competition and conflict for co-parents. Try to collaborate on shared gifts or at least set a spending limit. Don’t use your gifts to “get back” at your co-parent by buying something you know they won’t approve of. If your kids need your help buying their other parent a gift, do that without complaint, even if you know your co-parent won’t reciprocate.
You can be the bigger person
If your co-parent breaks all these rules, don’t let it affect your kids’ holidays. If you can’t compete with what they buy your children, don’t worry. These things will probably be obsolete, broken or lost by next year anyway. Don’t refuse to let a child bring a gift from their other parent into your home – unless it’s something that is inappropriate or potentially harmful.
These are just a couple of holiday challenges for co-parents. Dealing with in-laws, finding things to do when your kids aren’t with you and dealing with new budget restrictions are among many others. If you are still working out your divorce agreements, make a note of things you want to address so that they aren’t a problem again next year. If you have sound legal guidance, you can help lessen the stress of holiday co-parenting.