When Barry and her ex were unable to celebrate the holidays together, they agreed to take turns. If Barry spent Thanksgiving with her son, then her ex-husband had him for Christmas. The next year, they switched.
Parents who live relatively near one another might consider celebrating two Christmases in one day: Mom gets the kids in the morning, and Dad has them for the afternoon. Or celebrate on two different days. Children can enjoy Thursday's Thanksgiving Day with one parent, and then feast again with the other on Sunday.
In the spirit of the season, leave the drama behind, and keep the atmosphere uncompetitive as your child leaves one parent to spend time with the other.
Don't use the holidays as a power struggle with your ex. One parent may be disappointed with the arrangement, and how you handle that disappointment is important. "Parents should steer clear of imposing guilt on their children," cautions Bloom. "It is not healthy for children to hear how sad their parent is that they will not be together."
If you are the parent who didn't get the children for the holiday you wanted, then keep busy with something else. "Schedule time with family and friends, or volunteer that day to keep yourself from thinking about what you don't have," suggests Mandel. And if you are the parent who's fortunate enough to spend the holiday with your children, consider the feelings of the other parent. "Email photos of the day," suggests Mandel, "and have the children call to offer a loving holiday message."
Divorced mom Anne Dean tries to take the high road. "Regardless of our feelings," Dean says, "I do my best to make sure our son sees both families." When the distance is too great, Dean helps her son connect via phone or webcam with his father.
Custody decisions should be made by adults, not children. Kids want to be loyal to both parents, and asking them to choose is unfair.
And don't use the kids as a sounding board for your frustration. "No name-calling. No exceptions," caution Belle and Fiordaliso. If you feel compelled to complain about your ex, your ex's new partner or your ex in-laws, find a friend or support group to talk to. Never do it within earshot of your children.
Putting aside hurt feelings can be hard, but looking back someday to discover that you cheated your children out of happy holidays would be far more difficult. Letting your kids spend Christmas with your ex isn't a concession to your former spouse — it's a concession to your children. It can be your Christmas gift to them.
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