The holiday season represents a magical time for many children. However, if your children are spending their first Christmas with separated parents, it may be a good idea to consider ways that you could make the holidays run a little more smoothly for the sake of your children.
Calling the Other Parent
Whether they’re homesick, or they just want to gush about their amazing Christmas, your child may wish to call their other parent while they’re at your house for Christmas this year. Although you may have no legal obligation to allow your child to contact their other parent during your parent time, it may be a good idea to allow your child to call their mom or dad while they’re at your house. Forbidding your child to speak with your ex hurts your child more than it hurts your ex. If this type of behavior is particularly common, your child may grow to resent you later in life if they feel as though they’ve been alienated from their other parent. In most cases. children better thrive when they have access to both parents and they perceive cooperative and respectful behavior.
Remember, Your Child Has Two Homes
It can be painful to hear your child talk about going home and know that they aren’t talking about your house. However, your child now has two homes. Assuming your ex has at least some custody, your ex’s house is your child’s home just like your house is your child’s home. If your child is calling your ex’s house home, it may be a good idea to refrain from correcting your child, or demanding that your child only refer to your house as home. Children are often aware of the tension between their parents. Even if they’re too young to fully comprehend what divorce means, they may still have the ability to understand that their parents are stressed and the relationship is tense. Placing such guidelines on a child’s speech can put a lot of pressure on the child. If your child is calling your ex’s house home, it may be in your best interest to just let it slide.
Keeping Christmas Traditions
Christmas time isn’t the same after a divorce. If you don’t feel up to your ex’s traditions, that’s completely understandable. However, if your child really wants to continue those traditions, it may be a good idea to make a concession for the sake of your child. Your children are probably struggling with different Christmas arrangements too. If a tradition eases the child’s hardship, it may be a good idea to go through with it, even if it wasn’t a tradition you initially started. If you really, absolutely, cannot keep the traditions your child has requested, simply suggesting a new tradition may be a good idea. Whatever you do, refrain from comments such as, “We don’t do that now that mom left.” Or, “If you want to do that, you can do it at your father’s house.”
When Step Parents Get Involved
Step Parents can make things complicated, even when everyone has the best intentions. If your child has a good relationship with their step parent, do whatever you can not to make your child feel guilty for having a good relationship. It isn’t uncommon for children to refer to their step-parents as “mom,” or “dad” in cases where the step parent has been involved with the child for a significant part of the child’s life. If your child does this, don’t insist that you are their only father or mother. Don’t tell your child not to call their step parent anything other than the step parent’s first name may put your child in an uncomfortable position.
Manipulative Gift Giving
If you’re thinking of getting your child a golden retriever for Christmas even though your ex is allergic to dogs, it may be time to reconsider that idea. Also, if your ex has specifically asked you not to purchase certain things for the child, honoring your ex’s wishes may be the best. Even though children may not be able to understand the nuances of divorce, your child may be able to pick up on gift giving that was designed to manipulate. Make sure you and your ex are on the same page when it comes to gift giving this year. If at all possible, it may be a good idea to communicate gift ideas with your ex so that everyone can be on the same page. And remember, comments such as, “your mother wouldn’t allow you to have this.” Or, “I got you this even though your dad told me not to.” are both good ways to alienate your children and should be avoided.
Questions about Holiday Parent Time?
If you’ve got questions about holiday parent time, it’s a good idea to contact a family law attorney before the date in question. Agreeing upon the holiday plans before the season, and communicating clearly and effectively with your ex can further help keep the holidays drama-free for the children.