Avoid the holiday tug of war
The end of a marriage is never pleasant, and this becomes especially evident during the holiday season. "If a family is divided," says divorced mom Tara Reed, "then holidays will be divided, too."
Experts reveal six ways to help combat holiday tension among divorced families.
Talk with the other parent as far in advance as possible. Communicate your family plans to one another, and come to a mutual agreement about how your children will spend the holidays.
"It is imperative that a parent not make concrete holiday plans before discussing them with the other parent," cautions Daniel Bloom, family law attorney and mediator. Schedule a meeting — well in advance of the holidays — in a neutral place and without the children present. "Making these plans early," says author and life coach Laurie Giles, "helps you avoid those day-of conflicts that can ruin the holiday for everyone, especially the children."
"Open communication and flexibility can go a long way in preventing and resolving holiday custody problems," says Bloom. Each parent may have to adjust holiday dinner time or routines to make things work. "Rigidly adhering to a schedule to punish your ex just punishes your child," say Heather Belle and Michelle Fiordaliso, authors of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ex.
This is not the time to dig in your heels and stand your ground. Instead, it's an opportunity to do what's best for the children. "Take your ego out of it," says author Debbie Mandel, "and don't cut the baby in half." Don't lose sight of what's truly important — a happy holiday for your children.
Read about how real couples divide up family time on holidays >>
Jackie Barry and her husband split when their son was 6 years old. They had joint custody and lived in the same town. "We tried to get together as a family for the holidays," says Barry. "Me, our son, my ex and his wife." This arrangement was ideal for Barry's son, but it took some effort for the adults. "It helps if anyone who feels wronged can put those feelings aside."
Such a peaceful arrangement is not always possible. The separation may be too great logistically or emotionally. If you're absolutely unable to come together, find a way to present a united front for your children. "Consider giving a joint gift from both parents," says Bloom, "to show your children that they come first."
Next page: Should you ask the kids where they want to spend the holidays?