While co-parenting with your ex is never easy, there are certain times of year when it may be more difficult than others. While the holiday season is supposed to bring out the best in everyone, it often brings out the worst in our former spouses (or in us when we have to interact with them). Knowing that, it is best to keep the following ten tips in mind as you navigate the holiday season with your children and your ex.
1. Remember the holidays are not all about you.
Your children deserve their celebrations even if you feel cheated out of yours. Encourage them to have a blast with their other parent, even if you can't stand the prospect of being alone.
2. A lesson from Scrooge: Get into the spirit of the season.
This is a time of giving, forgiving, and fresh starts. Turn Scrooge's emotional lessons about holidays past, present, and yet to come into New Year's resolutions about letting go of anger and treasuring all you have -- despite all you have or might have lost.
3. Another lesson from Scrooge: Love means far more than money.
Your time, attention, and emotional presence are much more important to your children than lavish gifts. You may be short on money but you can always be long on love.
4. The holidays are not a competition with your ex or for your children.
Teach your children the true meaning of the holidays, not the meaninglessness of materialism.
5. Communicate and coordinate with your children's other parent.
A brief email, telephone message, or conversation can insure that you don't duplicate presents (imagine trying to explain why Santa brought the same gift to both houses when he is all-knowing!) or plan back-to-back feasts for stuffed and confused children. Ten minutes now can save days (or weeks) of fuming later.
6. Do the details.
Work out exactly where your children will be during all times, and determine when, where, and how exchanges will take place. Your children will feel more secure, and all of you will avoid frustration and disappointment.
7. Celebrate with your children's other parent.
Consider celebrating part of the holidays together with your children's other parent, especially if your separation is fairly recent. Some people are shocked when divorced families celebrate holidays or birthdays together. Go ahead and shock them! You might even find that you have some fun!
8. Set up a plan for next year now.
If you went through the agony of 11th hour negotiations this year, set up a plan for next year now (or after New Year's). Everyone will be happier knowing what is coming, and avoiding conflict on the eve of the holidays.
9. Plan in advance with your extended family.
Work things out in advance with your own extended family too, whether that means that you say "no" to them, you spend the holidays a little differently than usual, or you ask for your family's understanding and help.
10. Establish traditions with your children.
Establish traditions with your children, even new ones that may be different from past rituals. Your kids may not remember the details of years past, but year-in, year-out traditions will stay with them for a lifetime.