Divorce sucks for a lot of reasons. At the holidays, we’re reminded of more reasons than usual. How to handle the holidays after divorce?
I’ve been there, and so have a few other KidNimble editors. Here, a round-up of helpful holiday tips and suggestions, from experts and real parents.
However you handle the holidays with your kids (and various in-laws and out-laws) we wish you well! And remember, the holidays are few and far between. You’re a parent every day – and that makes every day special.
In a wise article, Robert Emery, PhD, points out that you’re never completely divorced when you’re divorced with children. The best you can do is to establish a polite and productive businesslike relationship. Of course, the holidays can make us all a little less polite and businesslike.
In his tips, Dr. Emory reminds parents to plan ahead and be sure both parents understand the schedule details for the holiday season. It’s a good start.
In my experience, an inopportune snowstorm (or unreliable ex) can derail the best-laid plans. Planning ahead is great. Having a back-up plan is brilliant.
Don’t Overdo or Expect Too Much
Seeing both sides of the family in a single day might mean by mid-afternoon, everyone is tired and cranky. Remember that “what’s best for the kids” is happy, relaxed times with kin, not necessarily scooping up the biggest pile of presents. Bradley Hospital offers some practical suggestions for working with your ex- and extended family to provide pleasant, but not over-indulgent, holidays.
So in the interest of making the most of both time and money, exercise your creative muscle.
If your kids are old enough to appreciate a gift with a little built-in anticipation, you might consider giving the gift of a class or activity that they’ll enjoy in the New Year. You know how quickly the unwrapping goes, and sometimes, the allure of the present doesn’t last much longer.
Create a splashy poster or card that you can wrap for your kids to open that proclaims, “Learn to Roller-Skate!” or “Play Laser Tag!” It’s not something to play with immediately, but something to look forward to – and possibly, something you can do together.
By making the holidays about “things to do” rather than “things to get,” you’ll extend the good feelings beyond the season as defined by the calendar.
Honor the Spirit of the Holiday, But Don’t Be Tied to the Mold
Because it’s hard to maintain traditions when a family splits up, some suggest starting new traditions. In my case, it took a few years, but I made peace with our rather untraditional ways. I tell people who ask about our holiday traditions that in our house, “We do something different each year.” That’s a kind of a tradition, right?
While we don’t have hard and fast rules about where we open presents, or when, and whether we’re here or there on Christmas Eve, we do have a tradition of decorating the tree together, and of baking or making candy together. We also make a laughably misshapen gingerbread house. If I collected the photos over the years, we could probably come up with an album of Family Kitchen Fails.
The Easiest Traditions
The traditions that are easiest to carry on in a separated family are the ones you can do just about any day during a holiday break. Think caroling, cookie baking, volunteering at a nursing home or pet shelter, a sledding or skating outing, or a raucous game of charades.
How Do You Stay Nimble at the Holidays?
Just like there are no hard and fast rules for how to parent, there are no magic recipes for making a “perfect” holiday.
How do you do your parenting best during the holiday season? Single parents, stepparents, grandparents raising their kids’ kids… nobody said it was easy. But one thing’s for sure: we’re all in this together. Have some tips other parents might like to hear? Please share.
If there’s ever a hall of fame for ugly gingerbread houses, Diane Stresing says her family will be well-represented.
KidNimble will help you find new traditions, or great places to carry on long-standing ones!
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