After divorce: how to make happy holiday memories with your kids

The first year after a divorce can be especially painful – particularly during the holiday season. You may be feeling alone and emotionally fragile. You may be harboring resentment towards your ex – and want to use your kids against him.

However, it’s important to remember that the holiday traditions you build with your child after divorce are memories they’re going to hold onto forever. It’s worth it to them – and to you – to make sure those memories are happy ones. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Gift agreement

If this is your first holiday season following your divorce, now is the opportune moment to get on the same page with your ex about gift giving. Following a divorce, it can be tempting to get competitive with your ex, trying to “out-do” each other by lavishing your child with exorbitant gifts. Neither of you may actually value this type of parenting behavior; you just want to look like the more impressive parent to your kids.

Talk to your co-parent early on and come to an agreement about how much each should spend. You may also want to discuss any types of gifts that are off limits. Then share these restrictions with extended family members as well.

Effective planning

Ideally, your parenting plan will already lay out the specifics about how holidays with your child will be handled. If not, make sure there is a clear plan with your ex about who gets the kids on which holidays – whether you share custody on holidays, or whether custody alternates by year. Be sure to check your child’s school calendar and make plans that account for any planned trips or religious functions as well.

In your child’s shoes

Although divorce is emotionally trying for any ex-spouse, it’s important to remember how hard such a transition is on your child as well. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to think through what arrangement will make the best holiday experience for them. Being passed from holiday event to holiday event – for the sake of getting time with everyone in the family – may be overwhelming for your child. Getting a sense of stability and community in one household may ultimately be better for them.

In addition, be sure to consider your child’s needs based on their age. Remember that toddlers will need frequent naps, and an overly busy agenda may be too much for them. Conversely, adolescents will likely want to spend some of their school break with their friends. Make sure your holiday plan accommodates these needs.

Navigating the holidays as a divorced parent can be a turbulent time for everyone involved. However, by planning ahead and thinking through what’s best for your child, you’ll set everyone up for an enjoyable holiday season.

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