The holidays are a stressful time for all parents but for divorced parents, especially for those who have young children, it's even more challenging.
THINK OF THE CHILDREN FIRST:
This is absolutely a time when the needs of the children have to be put ahead of the needs of the parents. The best gift you can give your children is to do whatever it takes to make this a time without conflicts about scheduling, gifts, or equal time with each parent. Leave the children out of the any arguments about the holidays. Work these out separately. All efforts should be made to ensure the children's happiness on these special days.
CREATE UNITY WHERE POSSIBLE:
For young children, they may need help choosing or making a gift for the other parent. This is a time for charity as you can help your child with this task. The best gift is never to berate or complain about the other parent with or in front of your child.
Most important is that both parents send a consistent message to the children that the holidays are still a special and great time of year even though both parents won't be sharing it together.
PLAN AHEAD AND KEEP IT SIMPLE:
Divorce for children is stressful enough, without adding complex scheduling arrangements. Try not to split the days. This does not allow children to fully enjoy their time with one parent if they are worried about leaving. And never split the children -- they need each other.
Develop a parenting schedule way ahead of the holidays. Some of this may be spelled out in divorce agreements, but if not, plans should be made in advance about dinners with family members.
If families live nearby, making sure there is time for both parents (and their families) is very important to the children.
If there is too much distance between families and it would not be possible to visit both sides in a few days, some parents alternate the years. Although it is very painful for a parent to be without his or her children on special days like Christmas, knowing that the next year it will be his or her turn can really help.
KEEP YOUR WORD:
Pick up and drop off the children on time and on schedule. Don't try to alter the plan unless there is an emergency.
KEEP IN TOUCH:
If you cannot be with the children, arrange to have a phone call. It's best to phone in the morning to say 'hello' and wish them a great day. It is a must to help them feel OK about being away from you for that special day. But don't lay guilt on the children by telling them how much you wish they could be with you instead. Just wish them a great time and tell them you look forward to seeing them when they return again.
If you have the children, make sure this time is available for the other parent. Example; don't have the children opening presents at the same time a call is due from the other parent.
DON'T OVERCOMPENSATE WITH GIFTS:
Some parents feel so guilty about the divorce and its effect on the children or they want to "beat" the other parent in the gift category, that they give lavish and expensive gifts or money. Coordinate gift-giving with your ex-spouse. Plan in advance what the gifts will be. The best parents of divorce discuss all of this and put the needs of children ahead of competition.
Make travel arrangements with the airlines if children have to fly to be with the other parent. Discuss all details with an ex-spouse. And make sure your child feels secure and safe.
Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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