The first Christmas following a divorce can be stressful for everyone in the family. As a parent, it can be tempting to focus on your own pain and loneliness—and overlook how this dramatic life change is affecting your children.
It’s important to put aside any animosity you and your ex may have, and focus on creating new, happy Christmas traditions with your children. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Anticipate problems. Your child may give you their Christmas wish list and give the same list to their other parent—without realizing the potential problems this could create. If you’re on speaking terms with your ex, it’s worthwhile to strategize your gift giving—and make sure you don’t overlap. In the event that you and your ex give duplicate gifts, don’t react negatively—which can make your child feel guilty. Instead, have gift receipts at the ready, and take the opportunity to let your child exchange the gift—and pick out something they’ll cherish.
Focus on the experience. Don’t try to compete with your ex to buy the fanciest, most expensive gift. Kids are perceptive, and they’ll quickly get the message that you’re trying to buy their love. Instead, focus on creating happy, long-lasting memories by organizing fun activities while you and your kids are together. Build a gingerbread house, go sledding or watch funny movies together. These are the things that will stay with your kids for years to come.
Exemplify love. When you were married, your spouse probably took time to help your kids prepare a Christmas present for you—and vice versa. Now that you’re apart, your children may not think to prepare such gifts ahead of time—which can make them feel anxious when Christmas rolls around. Even if your spouse’s happiness isn’t your top priority, it’s important to exemplify the spirit of the season by showing your kids the benefit of doing something special for the people they love. Take the high road, and teach your kids the lesson of generosity.
Co-parenting during the holiday season can be a challenge. However, a positive, flexible approach can go a long way in making it a happy occasion for everyone.