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Getting Through The Holidays During A Divorce (Part 3)

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Managing the holidays when you are married with children definitely takes some finesse and strategy.  Sometimes just the negotiating where to go can be rough: “Should we alternate years for Thanksgiving and so on?"  Or "Do we visit one house, then the other if we live in the same town?”  Forget simplicity if both families live out of town. 

Once you add a divorce and shared child custody to the equation holiday planning gets even more complicated and difficult.

If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement the Court will eventually make these decisions for you. There is an old adage that a good Court order is one that leaves everyone equally unhappy. Accordingly, it is better for you and for your children for you to be able to resolve these issues on your own.

For the kids

Goal number one should be making it easy on the children.  There is no reason the holidays should not be happy times for your children. It is all about the attitude. Taking into account the ages of the children, you have a few different options. 

1. If you will be celebrating the holiday in the same city, you can agree to split the day up.  One person takes part of the day and the other takes the remainder. Barring family specific traditions you may wish to alternate who has which portion of the day from year to year.

 2. If you have older children that are more into doing their own thing, perhaps you can switch up years.  Celebrate with dad one year and mom the other.  When it is your year for the holiday, start making your own traditions or maybe even take it on the road. Choose a destination to celebrate your holiday.

3. When families live out of town, complications ensue.  Splitting a holiday becomes more difficult if not impossible.  Alternating holidays by year is likely your best bet.  Depending on which holidays you celebrate, you might want to do Thanksgiving with one parent and either Hanukkah or Christmas with the other.  You could even agree to split Hanukkah evenly for each parent every year. 

 4. Regardless of how you divide the holidays strive to make a firm plan as far ahead of time as possible.  Let your children know what exactly is going on.  Make it easy for them.  Ask them to take part in planning. 

5. If your children want to call the noncustodial parent during the holiday -- let them. The holiday belongs to your children; not to you. Focus on making it great for your kids. Teach them the joy of sharing holiday kindness with everyone.

For you

Even with your focus squarely on your children, you will still have to deal with your own feelings. Here are some things you can do to ease the roughness of the holidays as a split family.

1. Remind yourself of the reason for the season. Keep that as your main focus. Volunteer your time to help others with no family at all. Visit the elderly. Bring joy to those with whom you are spending your holiday time. If you find yourself feeling down, talk to someone. Sometimes just talking out your feelings and having someone else understand can make you feel better.

2. Create your own calendar. Just because it’s not your year for New Year's doesn’t mean you can’t have New Year's a few days before or after the “official” holiday. Who says there has to be an exact day to toast sparkling apple cider and ring noisemakers?

3. Surround yourself with family and friends. Resist the urge to be by yourself because you just don’t feel the same without your usual gang with you. Put on a smile and be thankful that you do have family and friends to be with. Know that your presence there is making someone happy.

4. Look at the bigger picture. Sure it stinks dividing holidays and spending holidays without your children at times. Look at it this way -- it’s just a day, one day out of 365. Make your others days special and you won’t be so sad about having ONE DAY not be exactly as you might want it.

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Guest Friday, 01 March 2024