We're now just a week away from Thanksgiving, which many believe to be the start of the holiday season that can include Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's. While the holidays are supposed to be joyous, they can be a real minefield for families that have just gone through a divorce.
Child custody is an especially touchy subject around the holidays, even for parents who share custody. No matter how your holiday custody schedule is divided, you can choose to either be resentful and sad or to get creative and find new ways to celebrate with the kids when they are with you.
Let's say that your ex-spouse has custody of the children on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year. This doesn't mean that you and the kids can't celebrate on another day when you are together. Kids rarely ever complain about having two opportunities to open presents and eat a delicious meal. In the aftermath of divorce, your kids may be taking their cues from you. If you keep a positive attitude, they will likely do the same.
In order to minimize stress around any of the upcoming holidays, you might want to reach out to your co-parent ahead of time and make sure that everyone is clear about the custody schedule. Try to correct for any potential snags (such as travel) that might interfere with either parent's time with the kids.
Finally, try to keep in mind that new and different don't always have to be better/worse than traditional and familiar. You will probably create some new post-divorce holiday traditions, but that can be a good thing. Also, try to remember that your children should not be put in the middle of any conflicts or disagreements with your co-parent. Gift giving should not be a contest, and you should avoid bad-mouthing your ex in front of the kids.
If you are only recently divorced, there's a good chance that the holidays may bring at least a tinge of sadness. This is common, but it doesn't have to set the tone for the entire season. Just remember that with change comes opportunity and a chance to make holidays even happier than they were in the past.
Source: Washington Times, "Nine holiday tips for divorced moms, dads, and kids," Myra Fleischer, Nov. 11, 2013