Last time I wrote about why the “holiday conversation” is so challenging. People are invested in tradition and history around the holidays.
After a divorce, parents have the opportunity to create new, and sometimes lasting, holiday rituals. It is important that parents genuinely consider not only what may have been lost or altered, but also the chance they have to create new, fun and meaningful holiday memories.
It is essential that holiday plans honor the important place parents have in their children’s life, in addition to honoring larger family commitments.
So, there are many things that help eleviate some of the tension.
Plan. (advance planning is key)
Partition. (divide the holidays in ways that make sense for the situation)
Party! (enjoy the holiday season!!)
Plan. Parents have to plan for the holidays well before the holidays. A holiday planning meeting in the summer, if possible, can set out expectations and avoid disappointments. It also enables parents, with confidence, to explain to the children what will happen during the holidays.
Below are a few different models that I’ve seen people use.
Partition. In my mediation practice we encourage parents not to think of time in 24/hour blocks, but rather in segments of the day. So, for example, while Christmas is typically thought of as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, there are many other ways to think about Christmas.
If parents live within close proximity to each other, the day can be divided into Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, Christmas afternoon, and Christmas dinner. That expands the options available to parents. Parents who come into our office stuck on Christmas might be able to come to an agreement about dividing up the day in a way they hadn’t been able to consider when the holiday is rigidly defined. Further, celebrating on different calendar days expands to pie too. Kids get to have two Christmas mornings.
Some parents, if appropriate, share that early morning period, visiting each other, to share gift giving with the kids. Other parents divide up the day making making sure that the children have time with both parents.
The point is that parents seek to expand the options of how to spend and define these ‘memory making’ days so that each is honored. Also, having a clear plan helps the kids know what to expect, and if there is no fighting or tension, the kids have a better day.
If dividing the days into segments isn’t appropriate, parents might consider the ‘on year/off year’ approach. Some parents will say “on even years I’ll take Thanksgiving and you take Christmas and on odd years we’ll switch”. This way, each parent and their children share a complete holiday experience and it also enables travel to allow children to participate in family traditions out of town.
Party! Whatever method used, parents ought to consider the main goal of the holiday season is celebrate the good, not amplify the bad. Don’t forget to make the holidays fun!
Plan. Partition. Party!