Getting through the Holidays with Grace for Your Kids
Create a Conflict-Free Zone
The holidays can be extremely stressful time of year for many people, and this is especially true for many children and parents in a divorce situation. Divorced parents have an added challenge in maintaining their grace and sanity while co-parenting through the holidays. However, creating a conflict free zone for yourself and your children during the holidays is essential and empowering for everyone involved. Be vigilant about keeping your children out of the middle and put your children first. This means not placing them in the terrible position of having to choose between parents.
As the adults, you find a way to work things out and find ways for everyone to “win.” Holiday dates are much more important to adults than children. Children are usually quite happy celebrating a day or so late. In fact, depending on their age, your children may not even notice, for example, if you celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday or another day. And if it is a gift-giving holiday, what child is going to mind having two days to open presents instead of one?
Avoid Holiday Competiton with Your Ex
Getting through the holidays with grace means focusing on your time with your children instead of the time you aren’t going to be together. And you can achieve sanity by accepting your parenting plan and choose to make the best of it as it is. Schedule your holiday plans around your parenting agreement. Try starting new family traditions for your family. Instead of trying to replicate your old family traditions, create something completely new. Steer clear of engaging in the “I can provide a better holiday than you can” competition with your child’s other parent. Instead focus on developing and enjoying a quality relationship with your child. If you can speak civilly with your ex, talk about a general budget for presents, the number of presents and what Santa is getting your children. Santa knows which address to deliver the bike or the castle or the Wii, so don’t screw up his planning by having one at each house (unless you both want one at each house). Don’t outdo each other. Remember the spirit of the holidays and avoid trying to buy the children off with fabulous presents.
Show Your Children You Respect the Other Parent
Help your child make or purchase a gift for the other parent. Yes, I really mean this! By doing so you are demonstrating respect for the other parent. And in the process you are modeling thoughtful and gracious behavior for your child. Actions speak louder than words…if you receive a gift from your child that you know the other parent helped with, graciously receive it. I’ve heard horror stories of parents throwing gifts away right in front of their children just because they came from the other parent or the other parent’s girlfriend.
Make Kindness Your Holiday Family Goal
Stop trying to change or even influence your child’s other parent. Chances are very good that it isn’t going to happen. When it’s all said and done, the only person you can change is yourself. The sooner you are able to accept this, the more peace of mind you’ll have. Be kind – to yourself, to your children, to your family, to your child’s other parent, and to the many people you come in contact with on a daily basis. Expect the best outcome instead of the worst. Imagine yourself and your children having a wonderful, stress-free holiday – no matter how you spend it.
by Dr. Susan G. Burger
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