For many people, Thanksgiving and the holiday season are about spending time with family members and friends, making memories and honoring traditions. Despite the celebratory and joyous overtones, for many, the holidays can be stressful. This is often especially true for individuals and families who have been affected by a recent separation or divorce.
For recently separated or divorced parents, the holidays can be especially confusing and difficult as moms and dads attempt to navigate their new roles as co-parents and may have to cope with not having their children by their side during Thanksgiving dinner or upon waking on Christmas morning.
Co-parenting is accompanied by numerous surprises and challenges that many divorced parents may feel ill-equipped to confront and handle. While every divorced parent's situation and circumstances are unique, the following tips are good to keep in mind as you attempt to navigate your first holiday season as a co-parent.
- Your kids come first - If you're a divorced parent who shares custody of your kids, you must compromise and that means there will be times when you won't be with your kids on Thanksgiving or Christmas. While this can be a difficult reality to face, for your kids' sake, you must put on a brave face. Also, keep in mind that just because you don't have your kids on Thanksgiving day, there's nothing to say that you can't celebrate with them a day or week later.
- Be nice - Even if you and your ex aren't on the best terms, it's important to embrace the spirit of the holiday season and vow to be nice, or at least civil, to your ex. Not only will your good behavior help pave the way for a more positive co-parenting relationship, but your kids will also take notice which helps them feel more secure and loved.
- Start new traditions - The holidays are often marked by traditions that, after going through a split, may be difficult or painful to carry on. While it's important to continue to engage in the traditions you cherish and enjoy, it's also ok to let go of others. It can also be helpful, not to mention fun, to come up with new traditions that you and your children can enjoy together.
If you are a parent who recently separated or divorced from your spouse, your first holiday season as a co-parent may be difficult. It's important to recognize, however, that there are things you can do to cope and make things easier on yourself and your kids.