During the holiday season, movies, television and songs continuously remind us that this is a time to celebrate with our family. For divorced or separated families, helping the children cope through the holiday season, can be a challenging endeavor. The Law Office of Michael Golburgh has developed these helpful tips to get you through the season:
Don't make your kids choose who to spend the holiday with. Check with the other parent before making plans and be willing to compromise. It is best to come up with a reasonable and clear schedule, and present it to the other parent as conveniently as possible. Avoid conflict by communicating in writing, via email or text, and following the BIFF format - Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm.
Whatever your parenting plan, you have control over making your own holiday time with your kids memorable and meaningful. Schedule your holiday plans around your parenting agreement, particularly when there is the potential for conflict. Sticking to the schedule, as it is, will provide consistency for the children so they learn what to expect every year, and decreases the chance for conflict during the holidays. Choose to focus on enjoying the time you have with your children instead of brooding on the times you will not be with them.
Parents often feel the need to overcompensate for splitting the family after a divorce by purchasing more presents than they normally would or treating the holidays like a competition. Remember that you are not going to buy your children’s love, and one-upmanship will simply cause problems down the road.
It is best to coordinate gifts with your ex to ensure your children receive a normal amount of presents and that you do not end up buying duplicates. Additionally, you need to remain within your means. Money is often incredibly tight as you adjust to your post-divorce financial situation, which can leave little room for extravagant gift-giving.
While the holidays are full of situations that can potentially cause problems when it comes to parenting time for recently divorced families, that doesn’t have to be the case. With a well-crafted parenting plan and a trusted legal advisor on your side, you can face the holidays with confidence.
It is easy to get overwhelmed with the additional activities of the holidays. Make sure you keep in mind your own self-care, both physically and emotionally. Be sure to get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy, protect your down time, and enjoy celebrating with friends and family. By taking better care of yourself, you will be able to take better care of your kids. You are also modeling healthy behavior – so it is a win/win!
Experiencing the excitement of the season should be the focus. Don’t bother children with issues you have with their other parent. Make it a point to not speak badly about your ex in front of the children. If your kids are spending part of the holiday with their other parent, make the transition from your home to their home as seamless as possible. Keeping them stress free with inevitably keep you stress free, as well.
Avoid speaking negatively, or communicating through your child. Instead, use techniques such as “I feel” messages to clearly and directly communicate with the other parent. For example, “I feel frustrated when the schedule changes at the last minute. Can we work together to make things work for all of us?” If that’s not possible, then try using communication methods that reduce in person or phone conversations, like email, text or notes.
If you haven’t seen some of your relatives since your separation, they might want to get caught up on all the news…and do their best to show you their support by bashing your ex. Lay down the rule beforehand that your children will be present, and you wish the atmosphere for them to be pleasant and happy, so please no questions or comments about your relationship status, and do not ask your children if they miss their other parent! Your kids simply don’t need to hear any of this. To deflect, come prepared with other conversation starters to get people talking.
Especially during the holidays, it is important to find a few moments to reflect on and identify your own feelings. Recognizing how you feel gives you the power to better control your reactions. Help your children do the same. Be mindful of signs of stress for you and your children: changes in eating or sleeping habits lasting more than two weeks, irritability, isolation, or lack of interest in what used to be fun.
Recognizing how you feel gives you the power to better control your reactions. Help your children do the same. Children should be encouraged to "vent" and talk about their feelings without fear of getting in trouble, making you sad or causing more fights between their parents. It’s OK to have emotions like grief and anger, but reacting in healthy ways is key.
The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year for all families, including those that are adjusting to new circumstances. If you feel that there is increased conflict, consider talking to a legal counselor, who can help you promote constructive discussion. If you have questions about your parenting agreement, or co-parenting over the holidays after divorce, the experienced attorneys at our office can help.
Attorney Michael Golburgh is available when you need a legal counselor to strategize and develop a plan to address your co-parenting needs. Contact us on our website, via email or by phone at 301-305-3987.