5 ways to make sure you don’t ruin the holidays for the kids
It’s unsurprising that many children don’t see Christmas the same way now after their parents have gone through a separation. Christmas is supposed to be a magical time of year, filled with love and cheer. Tragically, the bitterness and resentment divorce causes often lead to parents sacrificing their child’s Christmas experience in order to get back at their ex. If this is your first Christmas divorced, make sure you don’t do anything that will take the magic out of your child’s Christmas.
Don’t Make Your Child Feel Guilty
Your ex could have been a bad spouse, but that doesn’t automatically mean that your ex is a bad parent. Thus, your children will likely want to spend time with your ex as well during this holiday season. If your child is looking forward to spending time with your ex, do not make them feel guilty for it. Even though your ex may have been a terrible partner, they’re still your child’s biological parent. Your child deserves to be able to have a relationship with both of their parents, free of drama or guilt. It’s also important that you don’t get too hung up on your child calling their other parent’s house “home.” Remember, your child has two homes, so it’s okay for them to say, “going home,” in reference to returning to your ex’s house.
Avoid Passive Aggressive Slights
Avoid passive-aggressive slights involving your child and your ex at all costs. Comments such as, “you’re just like your father,” or, “We don’t have to do boring things on Christmas now that your mother isn’t around,” can make your child feel confused about their relationships with their parents. Remember, half of your child came from your ex. If your child hears you speaking poorly of your ex, they may internalize it and begin thinking poorly of themselves.
Maintain Christmas Traditions
Did your ex have a bunch of ridiculous Christmas traditions? Probably. Does your ex think you had a bunch of ridiculous Christmas traditions too? Probably. The one person who likely doesn’t think the Christmas traditions are ridiculous is your child. If you watched Home Alone every year on Christmas Eve when you were married, make sure your children have the opportunity to continue that tradition, even if it was your spouse’s tradition. Telling your children things like, “We don’t do that anymore because your father left,” or, “That was mom’s tradition; you can do that at her house,” can be difficult for children to hear. If this is their first Christmas with divorced parents, the holiday season is already going to be different for them. Don’t try to change what Christmas means to your child just because it was your ex’s tradition. The tradition may have belonged to your ex, but the Christmas season should belong to your children.
Don’t Weaponize Gifts
If you’re fantasizing about buying your child a new puppy and loading them up on sugar before you send them back to your ex’s house, take our advice and maybe don’t do that. It’s fine to get your child gifts that your ex couldn’t afford. But, you don’t need to point that out to your child. Furthermore, if there are toys your ex isn’t comfortable with your child having, Christmas isn’t an opportunity to give your child those toys. If you and your ex have already decided on your child not getting video games, Christmas is not your opportunity to purchase video games for your children.
Let Your Child Call Their Other Parent
The holiday season is culturally a time for family thus, your child will probably want to contact their other family members when they’re at your house. And, this will likely mean that your child will want to tell your ex what they got for Christmas at your house. Let your child contact their other parent whenever they want. You might think that disallowing your child to talk to their other parent during your parent time is a great way to get back at your ex. However, unless you make sure to tell your ex that you’re alienating your child against them—which will be used against you in a custody battle—your ex has no idea what they’ve missed out on. Instead, your child is the real victim here.
How to Thrive After Divorce
If you’re interested in keeping the magic in the holiday for your children, make sure to remember, it’s all about the children. Christmas is not an opportunity to get back at your ex; it’s a time to co-parent to the best of your ability and focus on your family. If you’re struggling with co-parenting this holiday season, check out No One Dies from Divorce, Jill Coil’s book on surviving and thriving after your marriage ends.