The holidays can be an emotional time, full of bittersweet memories and family traditions. When a major life change, such as divorce and child custody issues occur, the holidays can make people feel even more reflective, overwhelmed, and even say or do things they may or may not mean.
Even if you and your ex have an amicable relationship, the holidays and shared custody may hit a nerve, making either one of you feeling resentful with a bad taste in your mouth. “Finding a solution that best meets the needs of all parties involved can be a challenge,” says attorney, Charles R. Ullman, “but it can be (and should be) done.” Regardless of your feelings for your former spouse, remember that the holidays are not solely about you; make the best of the situation and think of your child. Remember to strive to make this a memorable experience for them as well.
The Do’s & Don’ts Of Child Visitation During The Holidays
Do: Make a Plan, Don’t: Flake Out or Fight
Although plans change, one of the worst things that either of you can do is make or change holiday plans at the last minute. If you have a custody agreement, make sure you have read and understand the rules and repercussions; fighting it will only elevate stress and inevitability affect your child. If you and your ex don’t have a custody agreement or one is still “in progress”, come up with a plan that will benefit all of you, but particularly your child. Tell your child of holiday plans, but don’t tell him or her until plans have been finalized.
Do: Make the Holidays Special, Don’t: “Over give” to be the Good Parent
Divorced parents often feel guilty and that’s generally elevated during the holidays. When you celebrate the holidays with your child, it’s a good idea to make new traditions. As a family, maybe you, your ex, and child cut down a tree every year and decorated it on Christmas Eve. However, maybe now you live in an apartment and don’t have space or money to cut down a big tree. Let your child pick out a small, pre-lit tree and make decorating a fun and special time. Often times, children love “new” traditions and will gladly partake, especially if they can do it with you. Granting them the responsibility of traditions in which they are the deciding factor makes them feel as if they’re a part of both of your lives.
A note on gift giving: It’s natural to want to give your child anything that he or she wants, particularly if they are having a difficult transition after your divorce, but don’t overindulge your child or try to compete with your ex. Although the holidays should be about your child, there’s a fine line between what’s good for him or her and making yourself look like the “better” parent through a metaphor of giving presents.
Do: Talk to your child about his or her holidays, Don’t: Badmouth anyone
If your holidays are split or even alternate this year, make sure you’re a good sport about it even if you get the short end of the stick. When you see your child, ask him or her about the holidays, it’s likely they will be excited. Don’t feign interest or make off-handed comments about anyone that your child may have spent time with (ie. in-laws, your ex’s new significant other). Children are perceptive and will quickly figure out your true feelings. Be excited, mean it, and don’t badmouth your ex it’s the holidays.
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