Updated: Dec 10, 2018
'Tis the season.
Done right, the holidays can be a joyous and wonderful time of year. However, for many people who have or are experiencing "change" in their family, the holidays can be particularly challenging. In working with families (mine included) over the years, I have come up with a few co-parenting tips for the holidays:
It is imperative to come up with a plan for the holidays. If you are working with a co-parent, it is a good idea to have a specific plan in my mind for how your children will spend the holidays. Have this plan set well in advance of the actual holiday to avoid last minute confusion or conflict. Mediators and therapists can help you come up with plans if you are struggling in this area. Most importantly, communicate positively with your children so that they know the "who, what, where, when and how" relating to the holiday plans.
BUILD ON TRADITIONS
To the extent possible, try to continue some of your past traditions with your children. This can also be a time where you build new traditions and incorporate them into your family's life.
In my life, just by way of example, my children were accustomed to spending Thanksgiving at their grandfather's house. I wanted to honor that tradition after our divorce. So now I celebrate the holiday with the kids by making a "Thanksgiving brunch"(see me for recipes:-)) and then they can head to their grandfather's house for afternoon football + dinner. Laughing... I have tried rather unsuccessfully of building in the "Turkey trot" 10K tradition. Too many snooze buttons on our 7 am holiday alarm clocks, so I think that I will abandon that tradition (for now at least).
Ask your children about some of their favorite parts of the holiday. You may be surprised at how simple their answers are -- lighting candles, making cookies, decorating the tree, writing cards, watching Charlie Brown, ice skating or taking a walk through your neighborhood to see the lights. Chances are likely that some of their strongest memories will be connected to the senses in some way: what they see, hear, smell, taste or touch. Sometimes "less is more" when it comes to establishing a family tradition.
Take beautiful images and share them with your co-parent and his or her extended family. One of the things that I have loved to do over the years is to create photo books of my kids, which I called "Year in a Review" and gifted to everyone in their family. Also the "Shared Album" on your iPhone is a great and easy way to spread the joy, with the simple click of a button.
GIVE A LITTLE
If your child is young, they may need your help in making a card/gift or buying a present for their other parent. Give them a hand with this. It means so much to a child to know that you want him or her to love their other parent. Plus, it is just a nice thing to do for your co-parent. Appreciation can go a long way.
Your life may have changed drastically since the last holiday. It is critical to take care of yourself so that you can weather the new changes. You know yourself best - do whatever it takes. Exercise, dinners with friends, spa treatments, long walks, movies... you get the idea. This tip is especially important if your child is going to be away from you for the holidays (sometimes for the first time), as you will want to have a "plan" in place for yourself.
While the holidays may be different from what you dreamed of years ago, it is important to remember that they can still be joyous and special. It might just take a little work to get there. It is entirely in your hands to create beautiful holiday memories for you and your children.
Sending my best.
PS I'd love to hear about your tips & experiences, too, so drop me a line.