Divorced parent’s guide to handling the holidays

Marketers tell us the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but that feeling is often lost on divorced families. The Family Center’s Sandra Brunelle, instructor for the Divorcing Parents Seminar, reminds that co-parenting calls for cooperation not competition. She offers these tips for drama-free parenting this holiday season.

Consider the child’s perspective. Divorce is just a piece of paper to the child; you are still Mom and Dad.

Follow the parenting plan. If this legally binding document is not followed, the parent can be held in contempt of court. If your plan allows for alterations agreed to by both parties, document those changes with an email, text, or paper signed by both parents.

Encourage flexibility. Tell family and friends what the parenting plan says regarding how the holidays are scheduled. This may mean some traditions, such as the time for family gatherings, must change. Discuss with your children ahead of time which family traditions will stay the same, which traditions will change, and about making some new traditions. Encourage your children to talk about their feelings, express their concerns and wishes about the changes.

Keep talk positive. Discuss with family and friends what is and is not appropriate to say (about the divorce or other parent) in front of the children. Children need positive relationships with extended family. Children have the right to hold both parents in high esteem and develop their own opinions and views regarding each parent over time.

Mind the stress. You and your children may experience the emotions of the grief cycle during the holidays. Look for these signs: change in eating or sleeping habits, irritability, isolation, extreme busyness to avoid feelings, lack of interest or very emotional. To cope, be extra kind to yourself and your family, follow guidelines for healthy stress management and seek professional help if needed.

Remember what matters. Avoid going into debt or going overboard to make up for any perceived deficiencies or feelings of guilt. What children may really value most during the holidays are those special moments of celebration or quiet times with each parent.