The holiday season is typically joyous for families with young children and a time when fond memories are made. However, the end of the year can be a logistically and emotionally challenging time when parents’ divorce. The good news is that the good times don’t have to end even if your family now lives in two households.
Parents can ease the stress for themselves and their children by creating and sticking to a plan that puts their kids first. The holidays can feel overwhelming for co-parents, especially if this is the first season since finalizing the divorce. But here are co-parenting tips aimed at reducing your stress and helping your kids relish happy times and make wonderful new memories.
Plan every detail and avoid surprises
If you already have a parenting plan, make sure you follow it, although flexibility can be a good thing if you agree. Some co-parents alternate years for having their kids on certain holidays, while others may have them spend part of the day with each parent. Every family is different. What matters most is having a plan that works for your children.
Cooperate and collaborate
The holidays should never be about competing with the other parent. Neither should try to outdo the other in buying “better” or more expensive gifts. Co-parents should talk to each other about which gifts to buy. If one parent is better off financially and can afford more expensive gifts, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as the other parent is in the loop and approves or even offers suggestions.
Let your kids know the plan
Be sure to tell your kids about holiday plans well in advance. Avoid offering to let them decide how to spend their time as that puts them in a no-win situation of “choosing” between parents. Be upbeat and explain that both of you came up with the plan and are excited to make the holidays meaningful for them.
Preserve traditions and begin new ones
Your family may have certain traditions that you’ve followed since you were a kid. Look for ways to uphold those rituals so your children will want to pass them along to theirs. Be considerate of similar customs that are important to your co-parent and be just as determined to keep them in place. But it’s also essential to look for possibilities to start new traditions. Maybe it’s going to a neighborhood celebration or watching a holiday movie you’ve never seen.
Be sure to listen to your children
Even if you and your ex see eye-to-eye on co-parenting and your children seem well-adjusted, understand that the holidays will still likely be stressful for them. Look for signs of distress and don’t ignore their feelings. One way to help is avoid saying negative things about your co-parent or their family. The other is to avoid bending too far in the other direction by overindulging them. Be consistent and stick to the plan you’ve created.