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Parenting Apart And The Holidays

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:51 PM
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

By Alvaro Castillo

Holidays are traditionally depicted as a special time of the year for families.  They are suppose to be a time together. When a divorce or separation occurs, many parents and children find themselves feeling confused, disappointed, conflicted, angry and frustrated. During this time of the year, it is important to remember special occasions do not have to be emotionally stressful provided parents are able to put their children’s needs first.

Below are some pointers on how to make your holidays less stressful for you and your kids.

* Realize that you may need to adjust your expectations.

* Try to stay focused on your children’s needs and how your decisions regarding the holidays will directly impact them. Especially think about what kinds of memories you want your children to have and what will be most important to them.

* Keep children informed about plans.  Ask them for their impute on those plans.

* Children need to know where they are going to be for special occasions and with whom. Support your children having contact with the other parent or extended family members during their time with you.

* Avoid conflict with the other parent.

* Remember what’s most important to children is not who they spend their special day with, but rather that their parents are not fighting about who they will be with for the holidays. While sharing the holiday can be challenging, for the sake of children, pick your battles carefully and try to minimize tensions.

* If you are traveling with the children, provide the other parent with your itinerary. Provide the other parent with details of when and where the children will be, as well as, how they can contact them while you are away from home.

* Help your children make or buy gifts for their other parent. Children need to experience the joy of giving. This will also send a message to your children that you support their relationship with the other parent.

* Allow children the opportunity to talk about past holidays. Remember children have a right to good memories of their family before the divorce or separation. Make sure you are supportive of their feelings about how things have changed.

* Let children know that even though the holidays will be different, they can still be special. Invite children to help establish new holiday rituals with you. It’s okay to have different ways of celebrating the holidays in each home. You may also want to talk with them about previous traditions and brainstorm with your children ways to combine old and new traditions.

* Try not to let guilt get the best of you during the holidays. Often parents feel guilty about how hard divorce can be for kids. Sometimes we may react to that guilt by overindulging our children with gifts during the holidays.

* Avoid getting into a gift competition with your ex or purchasing gifts for your children that you know the other parent wouldn’t approve of or want in their home. When possible, try to coordinate gift choices with the other parent.

* Give gifts with no strings attached. Even though it can sometimes be very difficult, allow your children to decide at which home they would like to keep their gifts, even if it is not your own.

* Try to maintain a sense of humor and stay flexible. Sometimes plans may need to be altered or revised to accommodate your children’s needs. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When faced with a decision that seems very important it may help to ask yourself what difference will this make one year from now?

* Use times when you are not with your children in a positive way. Spending the holidays without your children can be difficult. Make plans with close friends, family members or take time to do something special for yourself.

* Minimize tension for your children as much as possible.

* Don’t make your children responsible for communicating events to the other parent for the holidays. Only engage in cooperative activities with the other parent, for example, opening presents Christmas morning, if it will be a positive experience for children. It is essential that conflict or tension between parents be managed appropriately.

* If you are not the parent who is with your children for the holidays, use this time to care for yourself and let your kids know you will be okay. Your children will worry how you are going to handle the holidays. Reassure them that even though this holiday will be different, you will be okay. Encourage them to have a good time with the other parent.  Let them know what your plans will be for the holiday.

* If you have the children for the holiday, be aware they might miss the parent that isn’t there. Holidays are traditionally viewed as special time spent with family, which may stir up lots of feelings for your children. Make sure they can call or talk to the other parent if they want to.

* Focus on rebuilding a sense of family.

* Talk with children about what makes the holidays special for them and discuss how you can enjoy your time together.

* Remember time spent with children does not have to be extravagant. It’s not about what you spend, but rather how the time is spent.

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