The holidays can be difficult for anyone. They are loaded with expectations and everywhere we turn movies and ads are showing us ideal situations.
Few people who aren’t divorced understand what it can be like to share custody at Christmas when you’ve always had the kids the whole holiday.
Whether your divorce was amicable or contested. Whether your ex is easy to work with or makes every interaction difficult, having to share the children during the holidays can be difficult or sad or both. Here are some holiday tips to help ease the pain.
1. Try to communicate with your ex about holiday plans and gifts
Sometimes communicating with exes can be very difficult, so you don’t need to say much. If you both already understand your custody agreement, you can just confirm exchange days. Bonus points if you manage to have a conversation about gifts too!
Keep your communication brief and focused only on logistics. This time of year it can be especially tempting to rehash grievances and place blame. That type of interaction will only lead both parties to frustration and possibly make the holidays even more difficult to move through.
If communication doesn’t go well, and you end up needing help as you try to make plans, please reach out to our team for guidance.
2. Help the children know what to expect
Divorce can be very confusing for kids, no matter what their ages. Try to think of things from their perspective and talk with them honestly and age-appropriately about how the holidays will look.
Some kids may even do well with a calendar or small schedule so they can see what the days ahead will look like.
3. Plan fun things when you have the kids
Even though you may be sharing the kids during the weeks leading up to the holidays, there are usually lots of fun things to do through the month of December. Look ahead to your weekends and see what you can find. Activities can range from free to traditional to more expensive. Remember that some of the most memorable times are simple and spontaneous. Here are some ideas:
- decorate the house/tree
- Holiday parades
- New movie releases
- Special events around town like those listed in this article (for the Denver area)
- something else not to miss in the Denver area: the Gaylord Hotel has options for all price ranges
- Game night with popcorn, make it special by putting holiday colored M&Ms in the popcorn.
- Christmas lights with hot cocoa – make the cocoa a little more fun with cocoa bombs and fun toppings
- decorate cookies or a gingerbread house
4. Don’t forget you! Plan your alone days so you don’t feel too alone.
- Say yes when friends or family members ask you over for holiday celebrations, or reach out and ask if you can join them and what you can bring.
- If possible, make travel plans to visit a friend or go on a ski/fun trip.
- Look for those you have been wanting to get some time with and invite them for a drink or dinner.
- Take a day off and go do your favorite thing: a spa day, something fun outside, …whatever fits you!
- MAKE A PLAN for the important holidays. These can be a time when sadness gets the better of you and you make decisions you might regret later – like drinking and driving. Please take steps to make the day as pleasant as possible. Think about stressors that may come up and think of ways to avoid them.
5. Make some new traditions
Some holiday schedules don’t allow you to have the kids for each special day. If your kids miss Christmas day with you, be okay with celebrating late or early.
It might help to brainstorm some new ideas, then let the kids choose what sounds like fun to them. You can also ask them for ideas of how they’d like to celebrate with you.
6. Plan for expectations not to be met
Everyone, divorced or not, has unmet expectations around the holidays. Family members we were counting on don’t show up. The weather doesn’t cooperate with our travel or outdoor plans. People don’t act in a way that you had hoped for in your mind.
- Hold our ideas of how the days should play out loosely.
- Be flexible and understanding – kids may come to your house tired and grumpy after heightened excitement celebrating with the other parent. Try to plan some down time so they can regulate before moving on to the next exciting event.
- Remember that we aren’t in control of other’s actions and thoughts. We can only control ourselves. Releasing what we want to happen can be a relief – be willing to change plans last minute to help your kids move through these holidays optimally.
Even though this can be a difficult time of year when divorced and sharing custody, you can still make it special. New traditions and thinking outside of the box will help you as you move through this holiday season.
Perhaps most importantly, this holiday season is up to you! You get to make it what YOU want it to be, you don’t have to take into account any other adult’s input unless you want to.