Divorce is tough through any time of the year, but getting through the holidays post-divorce can be particularly rough.
This a time of year when you no doubt have a lot of mixed emotions about your ex, and maybe even some holiday memories, but whether they bring fond or sour feelings, this is the time when it's necessary best to put the children first. Even though you may feel like steering clear of your ex right now, there is a lot going on with the kids, so you may have no choice but to work through some seasonal logistics. Being an excellent co-parent through the holidays may take a little extra effort, but it will make this time of year more peaceful for the whole family, including yourself.
Here are a few tips for peaceful co-parenting through the holiday season…
1. Plan the parenting schedule ahead of time. Now is the time to be talking about who gets the kids when over the holidays. Chances are, you already have these days figured out in your parenting plan. But if you don't, then get this discussion out of the way now so that you both know what to expect when the holidays are upon us. This way you can let any other loved ones know what the schedule is, and everyone can plan accordingly. Getting the parenting schedule out of the way now allows you to enjoy the holidays later.
2. Make two lists, check them twice. If your kids make wish lists for presents - have them make two separate lists - one for each house. If there is one "master" list, then it can create stress between parents... Who saw it first? Who gets to pick out the kids top choices for gifts? Is there enough gifts on the list for two homes to split? What if you buy duplicates and the kids get upset about that?… it can get downright crazy. Have the kids make two lists, or if everyone is agreeable to one parent splitting the list between homes then that is fine too. Tell the kids ahead of time that if they get the same gift at both houses then that's ok, sometimes just a little heads up can diffuse the situation ahead of time.
3. Communicate with your coparent about gifts for the kids. If your teen really wants to get concert tickets, and you're considering shelling out a significant amount of money to buy them for her, then it's best to make sure that your ex doesn't have the same plan in mind. Keeping in touch now can make sure you avoid possible conflicts during the holidays, and we want to kids to enjoy them as much as possible.
4. Consider splitting the costs for big ticket items, but only if that item is easily shared between the two homes. Don't agree to pitch in to buy a child a bike or a pet if it can really only stay at one house, this may lead to resentment later on between parents. A doll, electronic toy, or books can entertain kids at either house.
5. Don't stress about spending money. There are a lot of resources out there for cutting costs over the holidays. One of my favorite places for finding new ideas is Pinterest. Check out blogs for tips on how to save money on gifts. This is an area that you have control of, in a post-divorce world that is not always easy to control, so take advantage of it and do some research and planning early. That way you can enjoy the holidays instead of dreading them!
6. Don't put the kids in the middle. This is a special time of year for kids, and if you and your coparent are arguing about schedules or gifts, then the magic can be sucked right out of the holiday pretty quickly. Make sure to keep any discussions private so that your kids can enjoy the holidays stress-free.
7. 'Tis the season to be jolly. This is my favorite time of year, and I'll admit that being divorced, dealing with family schedules, blended family issues, etc., etc., can be quite stressful. Take some time to do the things you love around the holidays, even if that means springing for a babysitter for a few hours so you can have some time to yourself. For me, this means wrapping presents with some eggnog and watching It's a Wonderful Life - simple, but this is something that I have made my own tradition post-divorce, just for me. I also take time to create traditions for just me and the kids, so they have the joy (and stability) of memories created year after year.
This article originally appeared on The Smart Divorce at http://blog.thesmartdivorce.com/2012/11/13/divorcing-santa-coparenting-through-the-holidays-post-divorce/