Holiday Co-Parenting After Divorce: Five Tips for a Peaceful Season

The difficulties faced after divorce can often seem to come in waves. Holidays often prove to be particularly poignant waves and can be the source of strong emotions and anxiety. This is all particularly true when there are children involved. Facing the fact that the holidays will never look like they once did can be a difficult thing to come to terms with. But it need not eliminate the possibility of regaining new found joys at these times. For all of those struggling with holiday co-parenting after divorce, have hope. Here are five tips for a peaceful, joyful season:

1. Work with your former spouse.

Not all divorces end amicably. There are some wounds that do not seem to heal — and this can make co-parenting with your former spouse seem like a never ending amount of salt being poured in those wounds. For your sake and the sake of your kids, make every effort to try and put these emotions on the sideline and establish a holiday parenting plan that has the best interests of your children in mind. Understand that this will mean sacrifices on your part, but working together will open up new opportunities for the holiday season that may be overshadowed if there is constant tension and fighting. Always avoid putting your children in the middle of things and try to avoid competing with your former spouse. It is a battle that no one can win. It is even a good idea to talk to your former spouse about gift limits and parameters to help avoid gift giving competitions.

2. Make a detailed plan.

Divorce decrees are all too often unclear as to what will happen as far as holiday parenting time. There may not have been any specific holiday time schedule established. Take the time to establish a clear, detailed plan for what the holiday schedule will look like. The more specific, the better. Try to include things like specific times for pick-up and drop-off of the kids. State who will be picking up the kids and the location, whether it be at the residence of you or your former spouse or somewhere else such as school. Get this agreement in writing and stick to it. If you cannot reach an agreement as to holiday parenting time with your former spouse, consider consulting with a professional, such as a family specialist or mediator, to work with you both on reaching an agreement. A detailed plan will help avoid last minute arguments with your former spouse as to who is supposed to do what — and it will do wonders for managing everyone’s expectations.

3. Manage expectations.

Put your detailed plan in place as far in advance as possible. The change in how the holidays will be structured as far as when the children will be spending time with you and your former spouse can be a source of great anxiety for kids. Letting them know the plans well in advance can be comforting. The kids will have time to prepare themselves and manage their expectations accordingly. Be open with your children about what the holiday schedule will look like and be sure to emphasize the positives. The holiday season is about more than just one day. The spirit of the holidays spans over weeks sometimes. Tell your kids about all of the great things they have in store leading up to the actual holiday.

4. Take care of yourself.

Be sure to make plans for yourself during this time. It can be tempting to sit at home by yourself and lament the time you are not spending with your children. Take it as an opportunity for self-care. When your kids are with the other parent, this can be a chance to strengthen old friendships, spend time with family, or just take a day just for you. Pick up a favorite book or treat yourself to a spa day! When parents take care of themselves, they are better equipped to take care of children. It can also be really comforting for your children to know that, when they are not around, you will not be lonely and will be doing something that makes you happy.

5. Make new traditions.

Holiday traditions can be traced backed through the generations and you may worry that some of these will be lost among the new holiday schedules. Do what you can to hold onto the most important traditions and take this as a great opportunity to start some great new holiday traditions for you and your children. Talk to your kids about what traditions may be changing, but explain to them the excitement of starting new traditions. Come up with fun things together and keep the holiday magic alive!

Divorce can feel like it brings the end to many things. Yes, it is the end of a marriage, but it can be easy to see it as the end to everyday life as you know it. Divorce can also be looked at as the start of a new life with new opportunities and new traditions. This is the same for holiday parenting after divorce. While the holidays may never look as they once did, they can still be full of peace and joy. Keep in mind these above tips as you work towards a bright future for your holiday family plans.

Communication between you and your former spouse is an integral part in making any family plans in your post-divorce world. Establishing an open and productive path of communication, however, is much easier said than done. If you are struggling with post-divorce issues such as establishing a holiday parenting plan, experienced Twin Cities divorce professional Kimberly Miller is here to help. Kimberly is committed to fostering a positive co-parenting relationship between former spouses, including through collaborative family dispute resolution.

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