The holiday season is usually filled with joy as well as lots of stressful activity planning all the festivities. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have some helpful reminders (“Tips”) to aid families dealing with a divorce or separation process to manage the additional emotional stress? Having a plan in place incorporating the following three tips would help make the holiday season enjoyable for everyone, children and adults, alike.
Number One Tip is to focus on the children. They need to be reassured that they are special and that this is a season for celebration. Children will want to be with both their parents and family members. So planning time together with children may be tricky. It is integral to make sure that the schedule is concrete and set ahead of time. If a parenting schedule has not yet been created, parents should sit down and work to make something that works for both parties and, most of all, for the children. If tensions tend to run high, parents can work with a collaborative attorney or mediator or parenting coordinator to set a schedule. When everyone has set expectations of where they are to be and when, everyone can then have the time to enjoy the time with their loved ones.
Something else to keep in mind is whether or not this is the children’s first holiday season with two households. The transition into a two-family household can be easier if a parenting schedule has been made. Children will most likely find the transition easier if they not only know when and where they will be spending holidays, but also have time to understand and to spend other holiday time with the other parent. The transition from one household for specified events to another household becomes less emotional and confusing when a plan is followed.
Number Two Tip is to organize and communicate any issues or special plans when it comes to gifts. If gift giving plays a part in the holiday events, children should not be put into a compromising situation. An agreement should be reached as to which gift is given by which parent and what budget should be set for the gifts. Coordination between the parents is very important to eliminate false perceptions, eliminate emotional stress, and more importantly demonstrate how parents, focused on the children, can work together to support a joyous holiday season. If parents plan effectively, they can even complement each other showing a unified approach to parenting, e.g., if buying a gift for your child, who wants a Barbie Dream House, then one parent buys the house while the other buys the accessories and/or dolls to occupy this house. If buying a gift for your child, who wants a new bike, then one parent buys the bike and the other buys the helmet and special accessories. If financials are an issue, then parents could agree on purchasing a joint gift for the children.
Number Three Tip is to consider those situations where the children might be spending the holiday season with only one parent. An option to consider is inviting the other parent over to celebrate all or some of the holiday events. The dynamics between parents must be considered to determine if this is practical and appropriate.
It seems like the to-do list for the holiday season is always long, but there are certainly ways to minimize stress. The main focus for parents to keep in mind is that organization, coordination, and communication are the keys to a great holiday season. As always, if communicating with the other parent seems problematic, consulting a mediator, parenting coordinator or your collaborative attorney can be helpful. By remembering to put the children above all else and communicate effectively with one another, it truly can be the most wonderful time of the year!