Divorce is tough enough, add in the holidays and it’s often a prescription for stress and sometimes disaster.
There are some things you and your ex-spouse can do to make the holidays easier on yourselves, your children and other family members.
If there are children involved, then you likely have an agreement in place that determines which parent gets the children on which holidays, and that’s great. But sometimes even the best-laid plans don’t work every time.
If you think there will be a need to make any adjustments in that schedule, discuss it with your spouse ahead of time so you don’t spring any changes on them at the last minute. For example, if you really want to take the kids out of town for the holiday, but your spouse is supposed to see them on Christmas morning, discuss ways you might work it out so everyone is happy.
Before making any decisions, sit down and discuss your plans with your children. They might prefer to do something different. Maybe they don’t want to be away from their other parent, extended family or even friends.
If you are traveling, keep the lines of communication open between the kids and your ex. Make sure that your ex has an itinerary and knows where you will be. Provide him or her with contact numbers and make sure the kids have the ability to speak with their parent regularly.
This can be an emotional time of the year and many people prefer to just crawl under the covers. If you are not going to have the kids for the holidays, and you are recently divorced, connect with other family members or friends so you don’t have to be alone.
Don’t use the holidays to show up your ex. Keep presents in perspective. This isn’t the time of year to be “buying” your children’s love and it’s not the time to make your ex look bad either. If possible, discuss with your ex what is on your list of presents to purchase.
While not the norm, some exes actually do get along. If that’s the case and you can socialize with success, then include your ex in your holiday plans with the kids.
More often, however, relationships with exes are strained, if not downright antagonistic. Do your best to take the high road, especially if children are involved. Make them your priority.
Unless you have been divorced for a while or you have remarried, the holidays aren’t the best time to bring a new significant other into the mix. Consider how their presence will go over with the children or other family members.
Traditions are an important part of the holiday, but after a divorce you may not be able to keep them. Maybe you spent Christmas skiing together as a family or perhaps you always spent it with the grandparents. Now is a good time to find new traditions.
Planning ahead for the holidays, remaining flexible and always making the children your top priority will help to get you through the holidays with less stress, anger and conflict.
Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.
Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.
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