The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone. There are so many obligations to see family and friends, buy gifts, and entertain. If you are a divorced parent, the holidays can be even more stressful as you try to negotiate with your former spouse about when you will get to see the children and how your family will divide its celebrations. If your divorce is fresh, or the split was acrimonious, it may be even more difficult to manage. However, with a little effort and the spirit of compromise, negotiations about holiday celebrations and dividing time spent with children need not be overly complicated or contentious. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:
Create a Schedule
One of the easiest ways to ensure that your children can spend time with you and your former spouse, as well as your respective families, is to work together ahead of time to create a schedule. Depending on where your families each live and what your family traditions are, you may decide to split up the day (with your children spending the morning with one of you, then going on to dinner with the other) or you may decide to split time between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (with your children spending one day with one of you and the next day with the other). It is important to be fair in creating your compromise. For example, one parent may feel angry or resentful if assigned to Christmas Eve each year instead of Christmas Day. Make sure time is split equitably and that the most desirable times or days are alternated between each parent from year to year.
If you live in Florida, but your former spouse lives in California, it will be impossible to create a schedule in which you split the day. If travel or other factors prohibit you from dividing the day equitably, consider creating a schedule of alternating holidays. For example, one year, the children may spend Christmas with you and Thanksgiving with your ex, and the next year, the schedule would be reversed.
Hold a Joint Gathering
The best solution to your holiday schedule may be the most difficult for you to implement if you are not on friendly or civil terms with your ex: Hold a joint family gathering. If enough time has passed since your divorce was finalized, or if you have been able to establish a cordial relationship with your former spouse, then this may be the easiest way to enjoy your holidays with your children. You can either host a celebration with your ex and your children, or you can host a larger gathering of extended family and friends in which both you and your ex attend. Either way, you get to both be with your children on this special day without having to watch the clock or move on to the next gathering.
Leave the Kids Out of It
Finally, though it may be tempting to include your children in the holiday planning process, especially if they are older, it’s best to keep your negotiations strictly between you and your former spouse. Asking your children their thoughts on how they would like to spend their holidays may make them feel like they are being asked to choose sides. Even if they don’t feel this way, you may find that asking them the question still results in hurt feelings by you or your ex for not being the chosen parent for the holiday. It is better to stick to an objective schedule that offers the most equitable and fair distribution of time for everyone. You should then focus on encouraging holiday cheer rather. In other words, don’t create awkward silences with your former spouse, avoid creating conflict, and make an effort to be friendly.
What was your first Christmas like after your divorce? Were you able to negotiate an amicable arrangement with your former spouse for spending quality time with your children and family? What are your tips for working out these arrangements? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!
About the author:
Amanda Tradwick is a grant researcher and writer for CollegeGrants.org. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware, and has recently finished research on grants for disabled students and nebraska education grants.