The first holiday season after a divorce can open a whole new can of emotions for you and for your children. The challenging part about the winter holidays is that they are centered around family traditions. When your family has recently been broken apart, those wounds can still be fresh, and you may find the period of adjustment is longer than you thought it would be.
To give you a head start – and a bit of inspiration – here are 10 co-parenting tips for braving the first holiday season after your divorce:
1. Put your child’s needs first.
You and your former spouse are the ones who decided to end the marriage, but your child might feel as though you or your former spouse broke up the family. If you can, sit down together to discuss ways to avoid the awkwardness of your first holiday apart, and answer any questions your child may have.
2. Plan some traditional holiday activities….
Put some thought into how to make your child’s holiday season special. Try to do as many of the things that you usually do with them each year, so there is some sense of continuity.
3. But be sure to create new holiday traditions, too.
Some things will simply have to change, and that can be hard on kids. Take this opportunity to build new family traditions that involve you and your child.
4. Follow the rules….
Consult the parenting plan agreement. What visitation schedule did you agree to? Follow the plan as much as possible.
5. But be flexible if needed.
Just as important as it is to follow the agreed upon parenting plan, it is helpful to be flexible when plans change. Give a little, get a little and make sure that the kids benefit from your willingness to adapt.
6. Remember it is not a competition.
Co-parents might feel tempted to “one-up” each other to win the award for being the favorite or best parent. No matter how hard you try, you cannot buy enough gifts to compensate for any feelings of pain or loss your child has. Remember that it is okay if your child needs some time to adjust to this new way of life, and support him or her as best you can.
7. Coordinate gift purchases.
A good way to avoid tip #6 is to work together on gift buying. One parent might focus on buying the child new clothes while the other buys toys, or if one parent buys a bike, the other might buy a coordinating helmet and new sneakers.
8. Try to get along with your co-parent.
By modeling your ability to be cordial or even friendly with your co-parent, your child will learn that it is possible to get through a divorce without leaving a “scorched earth” behind. Besides – the holiday season is supposed to be one filled with harmony and forgiveness (or so all those movies and advertisements tell us). Us this opportunity to show your child that even if you and your ex-spouse can no longer be together, your child is still as loved and as important to the both of you as he or she always was.
9. Deal with your grief.
Chances are, there will be some point during the holiday season when your former spouse has the kids and you will find yourself alone with your thoughts. Try taking a bit of alone time to process your grief and your own sense of loss. Divorce can be emotionally devastating. Putting off dealing with your grief does not make it go away. It will just wait for an inopportune moment to express itself.
10. Take good care of yourself.
While the kids are with your ex, schedule some fun times for yourself. It is okay to be sad, and to spend some time alone – but it also okay to join friends and loved ones in their celebrations. In short, attend to your needs. Pamper yourself. Indulge in treats that you usually deny yourself. Find you favorite way to de-stress, so that when the kids come home you will be refreshed and ready to face the new year and your new life after divorce.
Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC provides thoughtful representation for family law clients throughout Maryland. You can learn more about our services by calling 410.921.2422 or completing our contact form to schedule a consultation with an experienced Annapolis divorce attorney.