We're heading into the holiday season, a time of family celebrations, but also a time of many tensions for divorced couples struggling to harmoniously co-parent. Even for the most stable of nuclear families, the holidays can bring uncertainty and upheaval into well-ordered lives. Add a dose of divorce and child custody confusion, and you have a recipe for stress.
Preparing the kids is paramount.
If this is your kids' first holiday season without Mom and Dad at the same holiday table, it's important to lay the groundwork so they will know what to expect. Preparing them now decreases the chances of meltdowns later.
Depending upon your custody agreement, you may have the children for the first half of Thanksgiving, while their other parent picks them up in early afternoon for a late-evening supper. Or perhaps you have set it up so Mom gets the kids for Thanksgiving and Dad will have them for Hanukkah or Christmas. Whatever your arrangements are, give the kids as much advance notice as their ages, and abilities to absorb and understand, allow.
Older children will appreciate more of a "heads-up" because they may have social or school activities planned which also have to be factored into the equation. But there is no need to burden the younger set with weeks of worry over not getting to spend a certain holiday with both Mom and Dad. A brief discussion a few days before the event itself, with a few casual references tossed in for reinforcement in the days leading up to it, should be sufficient for most kids under 10.
Communication with the other parent is key.
No matter how difficult the divorce may have been, for the sake of the children and the success of the current and future holiday arrangements, parents should make every effort to communicate civilly about the upcoming schedule.
However, if you're not quite "there" yet, don't beat yourself up over it. Fortunately, we live in an era where there are many forms of communication that don't involve actually speaking to one another. Take advantage of these technologies and text, email or download and use the various apps and programs specifically designed for this purpose.
For those in the middle of a divorce
If you haven't finalized your divorce, it's important to make sure that your Florida family law attorney has included provisions for holiday time in any temporary custody arrangements. It's easy to forget to mention some things that wind up being very important, so make sure that you keep a list handy to write down all the points you need to address at your next meeting with your attorney.
Parents should also remember that the most important thing is that your kids see the two of you as still a united front of parenthood dedicated to their best interests in all areas of child-rearing. They need to feel your love, so make sure that you are putting it out there.