Originally posted in MomsCharlotte.
When I meet with a parent for the first time, they are most surprised to learn that the children will typically share holidays once parents separate from one another. I have seen more tears than I care to share – in fact, a nice tissue box was one of the first things we actually purchased when we opened the doors to the firm in 2008. Divorce is never easy for children – or their parents. Being reminded that they may not have the children in their care for Halloween–or Rosh Hashanah and Christmas Eve (more important holidays for most) – is often the point that drives parents mad. Easier said than done, with the holidays approaching, don’t let those feelings get in the way of the bigger picture.
“Sometimes when things are falling apart, they actually may be falling into place” couldn’t be more true than for someone who is separating from their spouse and marching into a new chapter.
Here are a few tips as you fall into place with your post-divorce parenting during the holidays:
- No bad mouthing the other parent
You may know all of the awful things that your spouse did to you during the marriage. Those things may not make the other spouse a bad parent – only a bad spouse. Be cautious about speaking about that spouse in front of the children or even with the children in the next room. The TV is never loud enough and the walls are never thick enough. You may not be able to create the unified front with the other parent for your children when you initially separate (or ever) but removing your negative feelings about the other parent from your children is critical.
- Consider making consistent rules in both households
It is not unusual in a high conflict custody cases for there to be a mutual set of rules put in place in both households so that the children will feel less anxious about the circumstances. For example, for the appropriately-aged children, rules that are often implemented include: I have the freedom to express my feelings about one parent without the other parent making me feel guilty.I can talk to one parent in private and not be quizzed by the other parent about our conversations. Neither one of you can restrict my access to the other parent by taking my phone away. Rules like these can be refrigerator-worthy. With rules, there is often less opportunity for the children to manipulate parents – particularly parents who already have difficulty getting along.
- Communicate holiday plans
The holidays are such important and memorable times for children. A parent’s job is to make every effort to make it special for them. The children’s job? Be children. Allow yourself the chance to be frustrated and angry at the other spouse on your time and not the children’s time. Let them feel emotionally secure and don’t fill their heads with worries about the schedule and how difficult you know it may be for you and the other parent to make it all work.