In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, Newsweek offers guidance to divorced parents on how to make the holidays better for their children.
Admittedly, the holidays are the most difficult and painful times for families broken apart by divorce. Both parents want to maximize their time with their children. Even the best intentioned parent may be tempted to play the game of one-upmanship by giving bigger and more expensive gifts to the children in an attempt to buy their love. All of this leads to increased stress and conflict at a time that should be joyous.
But, there are things that you can do to make the holidays easier for the children. According to Robert E. Emery, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law, the challenge is to view and conduct your behavior from the children’s perspective.
Professor Emery offers these tips, with my comments included, to make the holidays more bearable:
1. Remember that the holidays are not all about you.
”Encourage the children to have a blast with their other parent, even if you can't stand the prospect of being alone.”
2. Get into the spirit of the season.
”This is a time of giving, forgiving and fresh starts. Turn Scrooge's emotional lessons about holidays past, present and yet to come into New Year's resolutions about letting go of anger and treasuring all you have—despite all you have lost.”
3. Love means far more than money.
Your time, love attention and emotional presence are the best gifts you can give your children. You do not have to be physically present to “be there” for your children. .
4. The holidays are not a competition with your ex, or for your children.
5. Communicate and coordinate with your children's other parent.
Communication and planning will ease transitions and reduce conflict and redundancy.
6. Celebrate with your children's other parent.
Children may feel guilt abandoning one parent during the holidays. Do a good deed – for the sake of the children – and include the other parent; maybe next year the favor will be returned.
7. Set up a plan for next year now.
To avoid last minute disappointment or negotiations, plan for the holidays in advance; if there is a holiday schedule try to stick to it, but be willing to amend it as needed.
8. Establish traditions with your children.
Establish new traditions with your children. After all, it is the rituals and traditions, passed on from generation to generation that make holidays special.
I wish you all a healthy, festive, joyous, peaceful, stress-free and prosperous holiday season.