Sharing parenting time with your children's other parent from whom you are divorced or separated during the holidays can feel overwhelming at times. But here are 10 empowering steps that you can take to decrease the stress and maintain balance for you and your children.
1) Accept that the holidays can be difficult whether your children are with you or not. Be prepared to deal with negative feelings of loss and disappointment. Keep a positive mental attitude and help your child develop one, too
2) Communicate with your children's other parent in advance of the holiday. (Use email if it's difficult to speak on the phone.) Plan out where your children will be during the holiday season, day by day. If a custody agreement or court order is in place, follow the schedule, be punctual with begin and end times, and use all of your custody time.
3) Make a holiday schedule that isn't exhausting. Plan your activities so that your children have quality time with you and no one feels or over-scheduled.
4) Focus on making the holidays enjoyable for your children. This should be your “mission critical objective.” Keep a positive mental attitude -- this is 90% of winning.
5) Talk to your children about the holidays. Explain how things will work and answer any questions they may have.
6) Don't have unrealistic expectations. Accept that no holiday for any family is a perfect “storybook holiday.” Your children may miss the other parent, but focus on enjoying the time you spend with your child and doing things and being a person they enjoy being with.
7) Avoid imposing guilt on your children. If you won't be together on the actual holiday itself, don't tell your children how sad and lonely you feel. It's fine to say that you'll miss them, but focus on making your child feel happy and excited about what is planned. Emphasize that you'll celebrate another day.
8) Keep yourself busy. At the times when your child is not going to be with you, find things to do that you enjoy so that you don't mope.
9) Arrange for phone and other electronic contact. Children should be able to call, text or talk to the parent they are not with each holiday. This helps them feel connected to both parents.
10) Create new traditions. Things can never be the same as they were when you and your ex-spouse lived together. Don't try to re-create holidays past. Move forward, incorporating some things from the past while finding new things you can call your own.