The holidays are often synonymous with the idea of traditions. Traditions are those little rituals that are passed down from generation to generation. For many people, traditions give a sense of unity, warmth and closeness. Oftentimes their consistency represents security.
That can be a little disconcerting if you’re in the midst of or have recently been through a family breakup. The traditions that you made the effort to cultivate in years past, might be turned upside down by the new realities of shared custody. For example, it may be that the children have always spent Christmas Eve with you at your parents’ house. Or maybe you always made cinnamon rolls on Thanksgiving while you all watched the Macy’s parade together. Perhaps the children have never been away from you on the holidays.
These rituals that once provided comfort can easily become a sticking point for divorced (or divorcing) parents. The reality is that your traditions will probably have to change in order to incorporate both parents and their extended families. Here are a few tips to make the coming months a little easier for everyone:
1. Don’t be afraid to start new traditions with your children based on your custody agreement. For example, if you don’t have custody of your children on Thanksgiving, create a new day-after-Thanksgiving meal, followed by a game night. Invite your family and make it into a fun event that your children will look forward to every year.
2. Take the time to explain some of the new plans to your children so that there are no surprises. Children are more adaptable than we often assume. Sure, they might miss some of the old traditions but they don’t need things to stay exactly the same. What really matters most is that they sense that they are loved and that they feel secure in the midst of this time of transition.
3. Be sure to review your custody order ahead of time. If you have a custody agreement, check it now. It is very common for holidays to be rotated annually. Be prepared to stick to the plan, right down to the drop off time and place. If your custody order is ambiguous or you can’t remember who had which holiday last year, communicate with the other parent and see if you can reach an agreement so there is no confusion on the actual holiday.
4. If you would like to request a change because of special circumstances, make your request early on. One of the keys to insuring that custody arrangements are tension-free is for parents to communicate with each other and plan the holiday well in advance.
5. Never put your children in the middle of any holiday disputes. If you and your ex cannot reach an agreement as to who will have the children on Christmas, don’t put the children in the awkward position of asking them where they want to be or letting them know how distraught you feel about the situation.
The best gift you might give your kids this holiday season, might just be the peace you convey and the tone you set during this time of turbulence and change in your family traditions.