As the holiday season rolls around, Long Islanders facing divorce or separation or recently divorced are not having the festive season to which they had become accustomed. Many are still grieving their fond memories of holidays past as they learn to adapt to new family dynamics. Sometimes it is not easy to see your children go with the ex for a holiday or even part of one. It is also sometimes difficult knowing that you might have to discuss or explain to well-meaning family members how you’re doing and how things have been. Being prepared and having strategies for making the best of the holidays can go a long way toward making it easier for you now and in the future. Here are some strategies for making the best of the holidays despite your recent or impending the divorce.
Have & Set Reasonable Expectations for Your Children
Understand that your holidays will be different this year. While your previous holidays were different, it will be best for you if you try to adjust to a new norm. Try to minimize the focus and stress on “the way things used to be” and accept how they are now. Use your children as inspiration to make the best of things for them. Your children will feel the effects of the family’s change around the holidays as well. Let your children know the holiday may be different, but this can be a good thing. Especially if you and your ex did not get along last year or the year before, things might be less tense or argumentative now that you have separated. Looking at this bright side of things can help you to appreciate the positive aspects of the holidays this year.
Plan & Prepare for Your Limited Child-Time Ahead
Know exactly what time your child will leave (or when you will pick them up) and plan for it. Have their bags packed and at the door rather than scrambling around at the last minute. This simple act can help calm anxious children. Be specific with your child’s other parent about dates, times and who will get which gifts. Holiday schedules are often designated in separation agreements as well as divorce agreements or court decrees. Understand what the plan is for your family and have a plan for adhering to the schedule. If you can’t agree on how the holidays will be split up, do your best to compromise. Remember to focus on what your child wants and what is best for your child, putting your own personal feelings aside when necessary if it will help your child.
Allow Your Child to Enjoy the Holidays with the Other Parent
Your relationship with the other parent may be over, but your child’s relationship with that parent is still important. It is necessary for your child to enjoy things like holidays with the other parent, so it’s important to give your child the space to do so. Again, try not to inject your personal feelings into it. You will end up putting your child in the middle, feeling like they must choose sides, which can be very anxiety provoking and damaging for a child. Be cautious of sharing with your child how much you will miss them if they are going with your ex, because this will only make them feel guilty or stressed. Place an emphasis on your hope that they enjoy their time with the other parent and his or her family, and let the child know that you are happy if they are happy.
Try to See the Holidays from Your Children’s Point of View
For all children, and especially the younger ones, the holidays are a very exciting time. School and community events will take the stress off of the situation at home, so get involved with your child’s events and share in some of their excitement. Focus on gift giving with your child, such as shopping for gifts for their teachers and friends, or baking cookies to share with both sides of the family. Make new traditions with your children, which might include a local holiday event or even be as simple as reading a holiday story or playing a holiday game every year. Avoid burdening children with your personal issues around the holidays and the divorce as much as you can.
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Robert E. Hornberger, Esq. is a Long Island Divorce Attorney and Divorce Mediator in Melville, New York. The family law firm of Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., P.C. handles all aspects of family law, matrimonial law, divorce and mediation. If you have concerns about your divorce, child custody, or child support matter, call 631-923-1910 today for a free consultation.
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