Today I noticed the first decorations signifying that the holiday shopping season is upon us. Not surprisingly this thought was immediately followed by thoughts of holiday gift giving, finances, and the logistics of celebration.
For many parents and children this year’s celebrations are impacted by divorce or separation, maybe for the first time. Change in the structure of the family can mean having to consider several factors anew:
- Holiday celebrations with each parent
- Religious tradition observance
- Gift giving
- School breaks
- Visits with extended family
Ideally these issues are effectively dealt with in the parenting plan or child custody agreement. Unfortunately however, for many parents this can seem like a struggle year after year, regardless of the legal status of their relationship. The existing difficulties can be further compounded by additions to parents’ families – new relationships, new births, or stepchildren.
Ultimately, to address these issues both parents must focus on the experience of the children first. That does not mean that the children get to orchestrate the holidays or need extravagant gifts. Instead, the overall experience of the children, perhaps focusing on the memories created, should be the rule of thumb.
Often children wish for the whole family to be together like past years, or like their friends’ families. Remember, the wish is for a happy carefree day of family fun. This is not generally possible even in the most civil of split families. For most parents, other relationship obligations or hurt feelings make such a shared holiday difficult (if not impossible) for the parents – resulting in a day of bickering or hostile exchanges between them – not at all what the children wanted.
Instead, what parents can do is focus on creating an overall positive experience of the holidays for their children – as a parenting team, not as individual parents. This doesn’t mean doing everything as a single family unit, it means the parents working together behind the scenes to ensure that the kids enjoy time with both parents creating great memories throughout the season.
Parents who are struggling parenting together peacefully and positively while no longer together in a relationship, should consider working with a therapist to mediate a positive co-parenting structure and communication method that builds on the shared parenting interests and focuses on the children first.
The following PeoplePsych therapist specializes in working with those who find themselves struggling through this difficult time in their lives and is currently taking new clients, feel free to contact her directly: