I got some amazing responses last week from parents who’ve been divorced for a while, so I’m sharing them below. Please share this with anyone who might use the advice! (Warning: this is a little long…)
Strategic Holiday Allocation for the Sake of the Kids
We remember the divvying up of holidays was fairly simple. Not unemotional, but we really handled it in a way that made sense for everyone, especially the kids. It was really about which holidays were most important to each of us, trying to keep it as fair as possible.
He, of course, would get the Jewish holidays and I got Christmas and New Year’s. Thanksgiving we had decided to split, but in the end, it didn’t really make sense for me to take them on Thanksgiving when my family is on the West Coast. And I knew that they would want to spend Thanksgiving with their cousins, playing football, and such.
So in the end, it turns out he has Thanksgiving, and I am fine with it because it’s the best thing for the boys. Sometimes, I am present for part of Thanksgiving if it’s local, as I’ve maintained a good relationship with the rest of the family. And they are all within blocks of us.
Growing with the Kids: Evolving Holiday Dynamics
I think all in all, it really just depends on what works and makes sense, with the focus on what the kids would like, and what would be best for them. As they are getting older, their understanding of our split is evolving, and they are more understanding of us, not all being together for any particular holiday.
As an example, I am making two dishes to bring to Rosh Hashanah dinner tomorrow evening at my ex’s brother’s place, and then will leave after dinner to go to an event with my boyfriend. I feel like there are no rules for this kind of thing, but to just be consistent with the mantra of putting your kids first or being mature about your own feelings, it all works out.
Rebuilding Bridges: A Monthly Family Dinner Tradition
My daughter and her ex-husband schedule a family dinner once a month, which seems to work very well. The passions have cooled, and the obscene amount of money spent is water under the bridge.
Mediator’s Wisdom: Prioritizing Kids’ Joy and Parental Self-Care
From a divorce mediator: Regarding holidays, I remind my parents that the KIDS are having fun – it’s the parents who are lonely. I say the same about vacations. I also emphasize that clarity with holidays allows Mom and Dad to make plans to take care of themselves when they are not with the kids. And the bottom line is if parents twitch the kids will twitch so if they really have the kid’s best interest they will not twitch.
Embrace the Company of Those who Cherish You
This simple yet powerful advice serves as a reminder of the vital importance of nurturing relationships with those who genuinely care about my well-being. Divorce can be emotionally overwhelming, often leaving me feeling isolated and adrift.
In these moments, being in the company of people who love and support me has been my anchor. They provide emotional stability, a sense of belonging, and reassurance that I’m not alone in this challenging chapter of my life.
Whether it’s the unwavering support of family, the comforting presence of close friends, or the understanding found in support groups, their companionship offers a safe space where I can freely express my feelings without fear of judgment.
These cherished individuals lend a sympathetic ear, empathy, and a shoulder to lean on. Surrounding myself with love and understanding has been instrumental in lightening the emotional load, fostering healing, and bolstering my resilience as I navigate the complex terrain of divorce.
Center the Kids’ Experience
Avoid trying to outspend the other parent. If a tradition came with your spouse, whether secular or religious, consider letting them have that tradition rather than do it at your house too. Avoid asking what the kids got at the other house and be open to them taking what they got at yours to the other home. Be flexible when plans involve extended family creating more variables and things can change.
If there are new partners with step or half-siblings, be welcoming and inclusive and honor that the kids might want to wake up to Christmas together, even if it means adjusting and having Christmas the day before or after the actual day. Talk about the future and how you will handle these possibilities while working out your agreement. I’ll give you an example.
In my family, we always had a tradition of making/baking little gifts for friends to bring around at the holidays. My mom would make her famous (and delicious!) fruit cake. I would make small ornaments and bake cookies. All of our friends, neighbors, and families we knew would get a small basket or tin. It was something I continued as a single adult and my ex loved to make fun of me for doing this, “Why do you bother?! Nobody cares.
You’re just doing work for nothing,” when I would start in October making things such as 30 small jars of pear chutney and little bags of spiced nuts, or a sampler of my favorite cookies, (and yes, the fruit cake!) to give to the neighbors, co-workers and friends.
The year we divorced I was reeling from the whole thing, happy just to make food for dinner let alone gifts for others, that first Xmas apart I learned he had made jars of salsa, cookies, and my same spiced nuts and gave them to all of our mutual friends. He has done it every year since. Naturally, everyone assumed it had been him all along. Rather than compete with him, I never did it again. Maybe I will bake again this year.
Navigating Divorce with Grace and Compassion
The most important thing is to not argue about this in front of the children. You are getting divorced so you are deciding not to be a family in the same way. You will always be a family, but now it will be different for everyone. Everyone must try to accept this. The first year will be the hardest. (But all be somewhat poignant.) especially when you are the one not with the kids.
Do all you can to make the holidays good for the children, even if it means being away from them and being sad yourself. When it is your turn to be alone let the children and your ex have a fun-loving experience. It will shine back upon you too. Maybe agree to let each parent have a video phone call with the children when it isn’t their “turn” to be with them in person.
Maybe, if you can stand it, spend a little time all together. There is no point in continuing to argue and live with friction. This is your new life so make it as positive for everyone as possible. It will shine back upon you. Always make the kids feel both parents love them. Don’t put them in the middle of your frustration and arguing.
You made the decision to be with your spouse in the first place and now you’ve decided not to be with them. These decisions are not the kids’ decisions. Just you and your exes. Let the children be loved. Let them be children – not pawns in your arguments. Your ex is still a human being. And the parent of your beautiful children. Let your ex experience some love. It will shine back upon you.
A Parent’s Perspective: Prioritizing a Child’s Happiness During the Holidays
I am a divorced parent and I remember very well those decisions we had to make over the Holidays. For me, it was not a big deal where my daughter spent her holidays, as long as she was loved and happy. Our Family had rituals and traditions which she loved.
Her father’s family did not. We both got together and decided this was not about us but about our daughter. The decision was always hers to make. It worked out because as she got older, she was able to go to her father’s family and forego our traditional holidays.
She eventually began to enjoy their Hodge-Podge Holiday Gatherings. She is an adult now and continues to make her own decisions.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I finally made a bunch of short videos to start my YouTube channel. Click here if you want to see me in action!