Divorce is a process. And even when the legal formalities are resolved in court, divorced parents still must navigate their day-to-day lives. But that is often easier said than done, especially around inherently stressful times like the holidays.
Indeed, while your divorce settlement may answer certain questions regarding the holidays–i.e., who will have the kids during Christmas or New Year's–there are still a number of details that may need to be addressed. So here are a few basic tips for co-parenting during the holidays.
1. Always Coordinate Your Holiday Planning.
A common mistake that many newly divorced parents make is making holiday plans without consulting or informing the other parent. Even if the divorce decree explicitly states who gets the children when, it is still in both parents' best interests to get on the same page when it comes to holiday scheduling. If one parent wants to take the kids on an extended trip during the school break, for example, then the other parent needs to know. Similarly, it's important for parents to schedule any divided time during a particular holiday, e.g. the children will spend Christmas Eve with one parent and Christmas Day with the other.
2. Balance Old and New Holiday Traditions.
Divorce is a traumatic event for most children. This is why it is critical for divorced parents to try and maintain some sense of routine around the holidays. If the children look forward to a particular event during the holiday season, the parents should respect that. At the same time, parents should not be afraid to introduce new traditions that allow each parent to separately enjoy the holiday with the child. Keep in mind that statistically, divorced children feel that getting to celebrate the holiday twice, once at mom’s and once at dad’s is the best part of the divorce.
3. Do Not Fight in Front of the Children.
Obviously, this is sound advice in general. But if there is a particular disagreement over holiday traditions or activities, parents should always hash out their differences privately and not in the presence of their children. Remember, many children internalize their parents' fighting. In other words, they may blame themselves for the disagreement, or they may feel like they're being forced to take a side, which in turn increases their own stress and anxiety.
4. Do Not Use the Holiday as an Excuse to Buy Your Children's Love.
Some parents tend to overcompensate for the stress caused by their divorce by showering their children with excessive presents. But buying a child an expensive or elaborate gift does not make someone a better parent. And once again, such acts may lead the child to feel they must “choose” between parents, which is never helpful. Instead of competing with your spouse to buy the most gifts, you might consider an arrangement where you still buy and give gifts to the children together.
Always remember, the holidays are supposed to be a joyous time. A divorce need not cast a pall over the happiness of you and your children. And if you need legal advice on how to handle your co-parenting during and after a divorce, contact our Family Law attorneys or call 732-545-4717 today.