9 holiday coping tips for divorced families
Holidays can be stressful and managing a divorce or separation can add an extra layer of strain. Brittany Peters, MD, offered tips for divorced families to help make the most of the holidays.
1. Avoid competition.
It’s too easy for the holidays to become a challenge, to see which parent can buy the most stuff, the best stuff, or the most expensive stuff. It is the responsibility of both parents to minimize rivalry. Creating competition takes the focus of the holiday away from your child and spending time together.
2. Love your child first.
No matter your feelings about the other parent, the holidays are about finding joy and being together for the sake of your children. Put the needs and desires of your children at the forefront, and you and your children will have a Christmas that will be filled with seasonal spirit and love.
3. Discuss gifting with the other parent.
Meet with the other parent and talk about what your child would like as gifts. Divide up the list so you’re not duplicating each other and know what the other is buying. If you have a hard time sitting down and talking in person, do it by email or text. Make sure you agree neither of you will talk about what the other is buying, and agree not to take this information and then go buy more gifts or more expensive gifts than the other parent is buying.
4. Set limits on gifting.
The parent who buys the big gifts often does not realize they are hurting the other parent. They think that if it makes the child happy, it must be a good thing. However, if you’re the parent who doesn’t splurge, you might end up feeling like you’ve failed your child or they will love the other parent more. Neither of those things is true, but to avoid this situation, it’s a great idea for both parents to set a dollar limit on how much you’re each going to spend or choose a range to stay within.
5. Stay focused on what is important.
Try to focus yourself and your child on the fact that the holidays are not all about gifts. Spend time together doing holiday things, such as crafts, going to services, decorating your home, baking, or watching Christmas specials. It’s also important to remind your children that giving is an important part of the event. Take them shopping to buy a small gift to give the other parent. Let them wrap it themselves. Remember that when your children are grown up, they are not going to remember who gave the most, but instead will remember the happy holiday times they spent with each of their parents.
6. Make the most of the time you have with your children.
It won’t be possible to share every moment of the holiday with your children. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the most out of the time you do have with your children. Start building new traditions with your children in your home. Make the holiday about the time you are able to spend with your children and not about the time you are not able to spend with your children.
7. Involve your children in decision making.
During special occasions, give your children some control over how they spend their time. This can be especially important for older children. They may be scheduled to spend time with either parent when they would rather be hanging out with friends. Give your child the option of bringing a friend along or planning activities with friends during their time with you. Take advantage of holiday visitation while allowing your child to have an active role in planning any activities you will be doing together.
8. Practice kindness.
Don’t allow your family members to denigrate the other parent or pry into what goes on with the other parent. It is understandable and okay to feel sad, angry or any number of emotions regarding the divorce or separation, but don’t be judgmental or blaming of the other parent in front of the children.
9. Reduce stress before and during the holidays.
The children are going through their own stressful times and will need their parents for support. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious food and set limits while being open with your heart. Don’t do more than you can afford financially, emotionally, or in any other way.
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