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Central California Life Magazine

Holidays x2: Celebration ideas for parents who share children after divorce

Nov 19, 2014 03:17PM ● By Cen Cali Life Magazine

Holidays x2: Celebration ideas for parents who share children after divorce

by Amanda Nicolson Adams, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Family holiday celebrations often center on children. However, making each occasion merry and bright can be a challenge with shared custody. Because families vary so drastically in tradition and custodial arrangement after divorce, any standard recommendation is not likely to be helpful. For instance, some families will have set arrangements as to where and when the children will be with each parent, while other families may navigate dates and times differently each year. Some parents may feel that they have to give up important holiday traditions or feel restricted in making plans because they have to share children with an ex-spouse.

Here are some useful strategies to help foster a cheerful holiday season:

--Plan ahead. Review divorce documents and align calendars well in advance of holiday events. This way you can spend more time relaxing and enjoying your time and less time hashing out schedules. The kids will also find solace and peace in being able to know what’s coming up. They can look forward to events.

--Create a conflict-free zone around the children. You and your former spouse may not agree on how to approach things, or on the schedule, and it’s possible that one or both of you are still hurt. Put this aside as you plan to enjoy a special holiday season with your children and address other issues later.

--Expect things to be different – not worse, but different. Be willing to compromise, including traditions on a specific day.

--Be flexible with when you decorate, bake, have parties, open gifts and engage in other regular holiday activities. Your ease with a flexible schedule may help children feel more comfortable. If you are able to “go with the flow,” they will have an easier time, too.

--Simplify. A majority of people surveyed in the United States expressed the desire to have a less complicated holiday season. It’s possible that by focusing on less, events can be more enjoyable and special.

--Guard against competing with your former spouse and others. If the kids are spending time at more than one household this holiday season, chances are the adults in the other households will try to make things special for them, as well. Resist feeling resentful of things your children may talk about with the other family. Your graciousness will come through and it will help to diffuse any similar feelings in your children.

--Consider helping your children prepare or buy a small gift for the other parent. This may not be right in every situation, and it may be difficult. However, consider the model you demonstrate with such a gesture. Likewise, if your children present a gift to you from the other family, accept it graciously in front of the children. Engaging in the spirit of holiday giving is best demonstrated when it isn’t easy to do. Your children will notice – they always do.

--Create new traditions together. Get ideas online and let the kids help choose. Some ideas: make cookies for neighbors; watch a special movie together; make new ornaments; decorate together while listening to Christmas music, go on a special outing or have a game night under the tree. Possibilities abound.

--Be kind to yourself. Focus on finding what brings you joy and what you are thankful for within the bounds of what you have now. Plan fun things for yourself if you have time without the kids, just as you are planning for fun on the days you have them. Find a gift for yourself!

--Be kind to others. Focus on family, friends and community. Model this for your children and see how contagious it is to give to others, whether it is the gift of a toy, handmade cards or cookies for a neighbor. The value of giving has an unusual power that results in bliss and fulfillment for the giver. That in itself is a wonderful gift for you and your children.