If you’re anxious about how to celebrate the upcoming holiday season as a newly divorced family, know that you’re not alone. Figuring out how to split the holidays between families and different households can be an emotional task, especially when you’re determined to maintain the holiday magic for your children. Fortunately, we’ve made a plan for you with easy, actionable steps to give your kids — and yourself — one of your happiest holiday seasons yet.
Start planning early: The absolute best thing you can do to ensure this holiday season is a happy one for the whole family is to get your calendars out and start the planning process ASAP. Figure out when your kids are on winter break from school, when any special holiday events are happening, and any other key dates. Remember that this process is going to be emotional (especially if it’s your first holiday season post-divorce), so by starting early on the logistical planning, you’ll be giving your emotions a softer place to land and reducing your last-minute stress.
Determine everyone’s top priorities for the season: Now it’s time to start figuring out what traditions or events matter the most to you, your former partner, and your kids. You and your former partner might both want to preserve all of your favourite past traditions, but you’re both going to have to make compromises and acknowledge that if you stretch your kids too far, you’ll end up causing more harm than joy. Of course it’s common for schedules and routines to fall somewhat by the wayside while the kids are off from school, but don’t push your kids to the point of exhaustion just because you want to maintain every single holiday tradition. Whether it’s special celebrations, family traditions, gifting, or religious beliefs, think about what truly matters most to you.
Once you and your former partner determine your top priorities, bring your children into the discussion and find out what matters most to them, too. Foster an open dialogue and communication loop by explaining to them what you’ve planned so far, and how you want to accommodate their top priorities, as well. By working on the plan together, you’re also helping to set up some meaningful boundaries that can help everyone feel like the plan is equitable.
Focus on the holiday season — not specific dates on the calendar: This one might be hard for some people to swallow, but it’s important: Christmas can still be Christmas, even when it’s not on December 25. (If you’re celebrating other holidays like Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, the same theory applies!) Sure you might be used to celebrating on the prescribed date, but now that your celebrations might be divided between different households and families, you need to be more willing to compromise on your scheduling. Whether you celebrate Christmas on December 23rd, 25th, or 27th, what matters most is that you’re spending time with the special people in your lives, and it’s important that you teach this sentiment to your children, too.
Stay in your own lane: Once you and your former partner make a plan, it’s time for you to stick to it for the sake of your children — and don’t get stressed out if their dad goes off book. It’s undoubtedly frustrating to see your former partner go above and beyond on the gifting front, even when you’ve both already agreed on what presents your kids will receive. But with your kids’ happiness as your priority, try not to dwell on these unhelpful feelings of resentment. Ask yourself again: “What is the spirit of the season in this household?” Focus on the traditions that matter to you, regardless of what might be prioritized in the other household, and celebrate the fact that your kids are happy and having an awesome holiday with all parts of their family.
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