The holidays can be a time of much joy. There's an opportunity to be with family and good friends, and often there are rituals of going to the same places and seeing the same people at the same time. There's comfort in that, and also a sense of marking time as the kids grow older.
This sense of continuity can be significantly changed, though, when parents divorce. While custody arrangements can be clear about where the children will be and when during the holidays, even a comprehensive parenting plan may not prepare you for going through the holidays as a newly single parent.
Here are some tips for making your holiday a good one for the kids and yourself.
Honor your custody agreement.
Read through it and determine exactly what your obligations are. Pick the kids up on time and drop them off on time. Schedules can be tight.
Communicate with the other parent.
You thought there needed to be a spread sheet to manage all the activities and shopping before the divorce? It's now more complex with two households in play. Talk with your ex-spouse and develop a game plan about important arrangements, such as coordinating gifts for the kids -- your teenager doesn't need two new phones.
Decorate the house if you are entertaining the kids or other guests.
Your former spouse may have handled certain decorating duties while you ran errands or took care of other matters. Take steps of your own to decorate this season, and get the kids involved, perhaps making this a new family tradition.
The entire family will be getting used to new routines, so things are bound to not go entirely as planned. Emotions may run high, so it is important to be patient and flexible. There may be relatives on the other parent's side of the family whom the kids don't get to see often. You can be accommodating, but you can also firmly state your support of the schedule you and the other parent have worked out beforehand. The key is to keep the kids' best interests as the main focus.
Take care of yourself.
Remember that every divorce arises from a different set of circumstances, and no one enters into a marriage with the expectation of eventually getting divorced. You undoubtedly know how difficult these matters can be, and it is important to take care of yourself as you also lay the groundwork for taking care of your children. They need you, and to best serve them, it's important that you take care of yourself, especially during this difficult transition period.
For more on child custody and co-parenting, please see Joel S. Seidel & Associates' overview of child custody and parenting plans.