The holidays can be stressful. And they can be especially stressful for families in the midst of a separation or divorce. But, there are some better and worse ways to handle the holidays. Here are five tips to help you avoid mistakes that I’ve seen others make (it’s late in the year and my sarcasm filter is a bit fatigued, so excuse the snark):
1. Don’t Hog the Kids: Big holidays are important to kids. They want to share the experiences with both parents and maybe even both sides of the extended family. Just because you don’t care whether the kids see the other parent for these holidays doesn’t mean that it’s not important to the kids.
2. Gift Giving is Not a Competition: Don’t try to outdo or show-up the other parent with your over-the-top gift deluge. You can’t buy your kids’ love; they already love you. And, if they don’t, then that life size robotic T-Rex from the Times Square Toys R Us isn’t going to change that.
3. Respect Traditions: Kids like their family’s traditions (well, usually anyway). Traditions represent stability and predictability for kids, something they are desperately looking for in the midst of a separation or divorce. Maybe you’d rather eat a giant bowl of Aunt Bethany’s lime Jell-O mold with the cat food topping (anybody catch that reference?) than go on that caroling trip through the neighborhood. But, that doesn’t mean that the kids don’t like it.
4. Don’t Argue About The Holidays In Front of the Kids: Wanna know how to ruin the holidays for the kids? Get in a fight about the holidays in front of the kids! They’ll really come to cherish the annual holiday family shouting match. Good times.
5. Don’t Force the Kids to Choose Their Holiday Schedule: Another stellar way to take the fun out of the kids’ holidays is to tell them “You get to choose whom to spend the holidays with!” No pressure. “Dear Santa: You know, toys are great and all, but this year for Christmas I would like to be faced with a no-win decision that forces me to choose between two people that I love dearly, with the risk of terribly disappointing one of them! And, if you can fit some self-esteem and peace of mind in your sack for next year, that would be great. I think I’m gonna need it. Love, Timmy.”
HOLIDAY BONUS! (Sorry if you were expecting a Jelly of the Month Club membership):
6. Have a Conversation About When To Reveal the Santa Clause Truth: If you really want a lump of coal, then go ahead and tell your kids that Santa isn’t real without consulting the other parent. Imagine the Christmas joy when the other parent finds out that their 5 year old doesn’t believe in Santa anymore because you let the cat out of the bag! Seriously, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. If the kids at school get to your kids first, then so be it. But, nobody likes a Grinch. Except for Cindy Lou Who and Martha May Who. And they’re not real.