The holidays are a time to make lasting memories with your kids. After a divorce or separation, knowing how to celebrate can be challenging, but many co-parents are finding ways to create new traditions and make it a joyous season all the same.
Inevitably, the holidays will feel and look a little different for kids and adults, but it doesn’t mean that they will be any less meaningful or fun. During the adjustment period, it’s normal for there to be some rough spots for everyone involved.
Here are some tips to help make the holidays a time of family bonding that everyone looks forward to.
1. Be flexible with scheduling
While it’s a good idea to start planning early and have decisions made well before the holidays arrive, don’t make the official day too much of a sticking point. Many custody agreements will address how the holidays are divided, while others are more open-ended, according to Indianapolis law firm Dixon & Moseley, P.C. To keep it balanced, most co-parents will choose to alternate holidays each year.
Thankfully, the holidays can be celebrated outside the actual day itself. Stay focused on the things that really matter, like quality time with your children. Another point to keep in mind is sticking to a realistic schedule and not overwhelming the kids by visiting every relative you have or running from friend’s house to friend’s house.
2. Make new traditions
A divorce or separation is a big change for everyone involved, so don’t expect the holidays to look exactly as they did before. While it is a good idea to try to maintain some of the previous traditions and do what is best for the children, new experiences can be exciting for everyone. Indianapolis and the surrounding communities are full of fun activities during the festive season. For winter magic, you can watch your kids’ eyes light up at the spectacle of Winterlights at Newfields or Christmas Nights of Lights at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. You can also participate in kid-friendly events at Children’s Museum Indianapolis, Indianapolis Zoo, or check out the Conner Prairie’s A Merry Prairie Holiday Festival.
At home you can enjoy simple pastimes like baking cookies, building gingerbread houses, watching classic holiday films, or gathering round for a game night.
3. Keep the lines of communication open
Both parents and children need to feel free to speak openly about their feelings. For children especially, knowing that they have other adults or safe people they can turn to, such as grandparents, aunts or uncles, can also help them feel more comfortable opening up and feeling like their feelings are acknowledged.
Everyone should be kept in the loop and putting the schedule in writing is a useful way to stay on the same page. To keep the season peaceful, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. recommends using a co-parenting app such as Our Family Wizard. These apps help streamline co-parenting schedules, manage shared expenses and facilitate easy communication.
4. Expect kids to react
It’s normal for kids to respond to the changes in the family dynamic in different ways, from anger to anxiety. They may act out of character, whether it’s showing unexpected feelings or trying to be perfect. They may lash out at their siblings or argue with kids at school.
Pay attention to their behavior and consider meeting with a family therapist or a school counselor. Some good resources for finding emotional support in your community are ChildCare.gov, and Mediate.com, which have guides for creative holiday planning for divorced families.
5. Stay positive and supportive
As a parent, you want to be a source of stability and comfort for your child. The holidays can ramp up the stress levels for adults, between shopping and entertaining. It can also throw off routines for kids, from school closing and holiday parties going past bedtime. There’s no need to make the holidays any more emotionally charged than they already might be.
If you feel tensions rising, lean into your support networks such as a DivorceCare support group, group therapy or trusted friends. When you need to vent, discuss it with a caring fellow adult instead of imposing your frustrations onto your kids.
Families may change, but with a foundation of fun, trust and togetherness, the holidays can remain a time of cheer.
To learn more about services offered by Dixon & Moseley, P.C., visit www.dixonmoseleylaw.com.