The holiday season is in full swing with Thanksgiving and Hanukkah already passed and Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s rapidly approaching. What is supposed to be a happy and festive time of the year can feel anything but for parents who are separated or divorced and their children. Here are some suggestions for making the season more enjoyable and stress free - the greatest gift of all.
Children often struggle to enjoy the holidays if they know that the other parent is sad because they will not be together. If the holiday is not your day with the child(ren), you can help by making it clear to them that you are happy for them to celebrate with the other parent and that you will be ok. Even if you are having a hard time, do not put that burden on the children. You can certainly let your friends know that this is a tough time for you and reach out to them for support, but do not let your child(ren) know. Make some plans, even if it is just a movie marathon at home or finishing that book that you have been reading, so that your children know you have plans and are looking forward to the holiday.
Help the children pick out and wrap a gift for the other parent. Encourage them to make handmade cards. When the children have a gift for the other parent that you helped them to buy or make, they are excited to bring the gift to the other parent and can sense that you want them to enjoy the holiday with the other parent. It does not need to be an expensive gift, just something selected or made by your children to gift to their other parent. Yes, you should do this even if the other parent does not reciprocate, because ultimately it is good for the children. This promotes positive feelings for the child about your good will and allows the child(ren) to experience the joy of giving a gift to the other parent.
Make plans with the children to celebrate the holidays when they are with you, even if it is not on the actual holiday. The children will certainly be excited to have an extra celebration and it gives you an opportunity to create new traditions and memories with your children. While we all know that the holidays are on the calendar on specific days each year, there is no reason that you cannot celebrate on another day.
Stick to positive messaging to your children around everything holiday related. Avoid negatives such as putting the Christmas tree away on Christmas before the children return to your house. Just accentuate the positive, and you can’t go wrong! A good rule is to keep in mind throughout this special time of year that the child(ren) did not ask to be subject to a custody schedule or order - so it is your job as a parent to do what you can to make the holiday and transitions as easy as you can for them. You will be glad that you made a happy holiday memory for your child(ren), whatever day it may be that you had the opportunity to celebrate together.
As for New Year’s, be creative. If you have the children during the day on December 31st, celebrate at noon. If you do not, before they go to their other parent’s house for New Years, have a celebratory breakfast with a sparkling apple cider toast. It can be something fun and easy for you and the children and will start off their time with their other parent on a good note.
We hope these tips are helpful, and wish you all a happy holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year! As always, we are here to assist you with your custody and family law needs.
Elizabeth Fineman concentrates her practice on domestic relations matters and handles a variety of issues, including divorce, child support, alimony/spousal support, marital taxation, equitable distribution and child custody matters.