Believe it or not, the time is here. Summer is no longer in the rearview mirror and Halloween is behind us (although the leftover candy remains). Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are just around and the corner. Turkeys and pies, gifts, ugly sweaters, holiday music, decorations, parades, and champagne are just some of the trappings that make the holiday season so special.
For divorced and divorcing parents, however, the season to be merry may be more like the season to dread with potentially heightened parenting conflicts and related stress. If you feel like one of those parents, consider these five tips to help make the next couple of months memorable for all of the right reasons.
- Address scheduling conflicts early – Every holiday season, divorce attorneys witness an increase in the number of scheduling conflicts requiring immediate attention. In an effort to avoid conflicts, make sure that your parenting time schedule is as detailed as possible as to who will have the time with the children, when the time will start/end, who is doing the driving, and the like. Sometimes conflicts are unavoidable, however, so do your best not to wait until the last minute to get into mediation to resolve the issue or file that emergency application.
- Shield the children from any dispute – It goes without saying that the children have already been through enough with the divorce and division of their family. Should any conflicts arise with the parenting time schedule, events, gifts and the like, do your best to not let the kids see or feel what is going on. Even young children can sense tension in the air so do what you can to keep the air clean and positive.
- Create a sense of normalcy for the children with family members and friends old and new – In that same vein, do not be afraid to create new traditions for the children so that they start getting accustomed to what the future may bring at this time of year. Be sensitive if you plan on introducing the children to a new significant other. Consider talking about that introduction with a school counselor or therapist so that the introduction, to the extent possible, is done in the right way for the children.
- Discuss gift giving in advance – If possible, try to get on the same page with your former spouse as to what gifts the children are going to receive. Do not make it a competition for your children’s affections because doing so could come back to haunt you should future litigation ever arise. The children likely do not need two X-Box machines (one is just fine for Fortnite). They likely not need two footballs, or two of whatever is this year’s Cabbage Patch Kid or Tickle Me Elmo. Attempting to coordinate in advance or, perhaps, even jointly purchasing gifts may not only relieve some of your own gift-giving stress, but also that of the children.
- When you are not with the children, do what is best for you – Moving forward with your life oftentimes means that you will not be with the children for every holiday. Perhaps your former spouse will be with the children on Thanksgiving and you will be with them on Christmas. New traditions for the children also mean new traditions for you, so take the time as an opportunity to carve your own path. Working with a divorce coach or therapist could aid you in defining your goals for the future and, in so doing, how best to positively move through the holiday season.
You and your children deserve to enjoy everything about what makes the holiday season one of the best times of the year. With these tips in mind, hopefully your next two months will be more about enjoying your family with a glass of eggnog in hand, football on your television and, ultimately, heading into 2019 with a positive and hopeful outlook.