Navigating the Holidays as a Divorced Parent
If this is the first holiday season where you and your spouse are in separate homes, it can be a sad and stressful time to be a parent. By focusing on keeping things fun and argument-free for your children’s sake, you’ll also improve your own holiday. Below are some suggested approaches to making the holidays as much fun as possible while you’re sharing custody with your ex.
Communicate clearly and in advance about where the children will be. Ideally, you were already able to negotiate a holiday custody sharing schedule that works for both you and your former spouse through your custody arrangement. If you’re still in the midst of a divorce, you would ideally reach an agreement one-on-one with your spouse. If this proves to be impossible, you may file a motion for the court to determine how your time with the children will be decided. If at all possible, try to avoid a contentious fight before a judge during the holidays. While it may feel unfair that you don’t spend an important day with your children, modeling patience and understanding to your children by not allowing yourself to get upset will offer them a much greater benefit in the long run.
The holiday isn’t just hard on you; it’s also hard on your kids. While the first holiday season without your spouse is inevitably difficult for you, keep in mind that it’s both painful for your children to not be with both parents, and painful for them to see you sad in what’s normally such a happy time. Keep your complaints about your ex between yourself and your friends, and make sure any hand-offs between you and your ex are polite and friendly.
While you may not be able to continue all the old traditions, suggest new ones. Don’t worry about the holidays being perfect, as that will cause unnecessary stress. Focus instead on keeping things light and free from fighting. Instead of focusing on what’s missing – your co-parent – focus on a fun new tradition, like building a gingerbread house or making paper snowflakes, which your family hadn’t done before the divorce.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate twice. Perhaps you won’t have your child on the big day itself. There’s no law saying that you can only celebrate the holiday on the exact date marked on the calendar, and you needn’t cheat yourself out of celebrating with your kids when it’s not your year to have your children on the holiday itself. You can even make it into a bonus for your kids; frame it as a treat that they get to celebrate twice, instead of focusing on the fact that their entire family isn’t together for one day. It’s also a great way to give your children even more family time, during a period where family life may have become a source of stress for them.
If you are in need of compassionate, knowledgeable legal assistance for your New Jersey divorce or custody dispute, contact Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation on your case, at 908-964-0102.